Looking 'beyond everywhere': Palo Alto couple remains missing after fourth day of searches | News | Palo Alto Online |


Looking 'beyond everywhere': Palo Alto couple remains missing after fourth day of searches

Case mystifies locals as sheriff's office extends operation to Tomales Bay

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The Marin County Sheriff's Office Dive Team heads out Tomales Bay off the shores of Inverness on Feb. 19. The crew is looking for signs of Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin, who were last heard from five days earlier. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Update: Searchers located missing Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin alive on Saturday, Feb. 22. Read our latest story here.


As time ticks on in the effort to locate Palo Alto residents Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin, who have been missing for nearly a week in the small Marin County community of Inverness, the number of searchers has waned.

On Wednesday, the dive team from the Marin County Sheriff's Office spent hours looking for the couple in the high tide waters of Tomales Bay and found nothing, according to a deputy.

"There's not gonna be much going on out here," said Sgt. Brad Kashack, who was exhausted from the long day of searches on Tuesday to find the Palo Alto couple and didn't come home to sleep until 1 a.m.

It was the fourth day of search operations in Inverness — a small unincorporated town 3.5 miles northwest of Point Reyes Station — since Kiparsky, 77, and Irwin, 72, were last heard from on Friday. Their belongings were left behind in a rented vacation cottage on Via De La Vista which is nestled in the woods of a ridgetop with a few homes widely spaced out from each other.

The couple missed an appointment on Sunday, according to the sheriff's office.

The missing person search started off strong earlier in the week when the sheriff's office canvassed the area by ground and air with help from several agencies. On Monday, 136 search and rescue members from all over the Bay Area traveled to Inverness, where many combed trails in the area.

Sheriff's deputies and Point Reyes National Seashore rangers set their sights on the water on Wednesday. They deployed a K9 team and the sheriff's dive team, which used a remotely operated underwater vehicle and a side scan sonar, according to a tweet from the sheriff's office.

The dive team started its search at the pier of Inverness Yacht Club around 9:15 a.m. and headed about a mile up north, closer to the couple's rental vacation home.

By noon, the sheriff's crew halted its search with no updates, while the park rangers continued looking on the boat with the sonar, according to Sgt. Brenton Schneider. The sheriff's office sent another team of divers and its underwater robot during low tide on Wednesday evening.

"I'm losing a little hope to be honest," said Burton Eubank, a longtime volunteer firefighter for the Inverness Fire Department who aided the search the past few days. "When they switched from tracking dogs to cadaver dogs — well, I'm thinking we're going to be expecting something bad."

Eubank said his sister, a housekeeper for the couple's rental home, told him the couple left behind several items, including cellphones, wallets, their vehicle, hiking gear and walking sticks. Authorities said no foul play is suspected.

"We've covered a lot," Eubank said. "We've gone beyond everywhere."

But according to KGO-TV news, Irwin's son, Jonas, told search and rescue teams on Tuesday, "They wouldn't leave all their stuff, leave their car and just vanish.

"This is a really weird time for our family. There is no playbook for something like this," he said. "My dad was somebody, who when he was really into the backpacking thing, would do snow camping and cut into ice and make fire. He is super resourceful."

The missing persons case is highly uncommon for the otherwise peaceful town, which has clearly paved trails mostly surrounded by impenetrable thicket. Eubank described the community as one with an "open door policy" and very few crimes, leaving many locals perplexed by what could have happened to the couple. The volunteer firefighter recalled the last missing persons case in the town was about four decades ago involving two girls who were later found.

"It's not that easy to get off trail," said Richard Blair, an Inverness resident of 30 years. His wife, Kathleen Goodwin, agreed.

"You can't just casually go through the woods," she said.

The two-story home where Irwin and Kiparsky had stayed, surrounded by wooden decks, an expanse of green lawn and tall evergreens, was quiet on Wednesday, aside from the hum of nearby construction and wildlife. There were no traces of an active investigation or the media firestorm that had invaded the secluded neighborhood earlier in the week when news surfaced of the missing couple.

On Thursday afternoon, the sheriff's office announced plans for the next four days and outlined the tools and agencies that will aid the "recovery mission" for Kiparsky and Irwin.

"The Marin County Sheriff's Office continues to work with the family of Carol Kiparsky and Ian Irwin in an effort to find them," the news release said. "During our searches with multiple K9 Teams, we have received four independent alerts from Cadaver K9 Teams in the area of Shell Beach."

The U.S. Coast Guard joined the sheriff's office and the Inverness Fire Department Thursday to provide aerial support around Tomales Bay and the shoreline.

On Friday, sheriffs will use jet skis, National Park Service boats, an airplane and drones to search the same areas.

Ground searches and K9 teams will return to assist with the operation on Saturday, along with NPS boats, an airplane and drones.

The resources will dwindle down on Sunday to NPS boats and an airplane at Tomales Bay and on Monday to searchers on jet skis.

The sheriff's office asks the public to be vigilant if they are in the area and report anything "out of the ordinary or suspicious."


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6 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 10:58 am

Leaving their cellphones and wallets behind doesn't speak to the no foul play possibility. I wonder if anyone has tried to collect DNA from the exterior door or door handle (or if it's even possible), just in case, or if it's even a possibility now even so.

Dogs found the other missing hiker yesterday -- why is it that the dogs can't pick up their scent? It just seems frightening.

3 people like this
Posted by Hiker
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:11 am

This is beginning to sound suspicious and I agree that foul play may be an option that needs to be addressed.

From my perspective, if they had been going hiking, they would have their phones and wallets, their hiking shoes, etc. There is no mention of whether the rental cabin was locked or the whereabouts of the keys to the cabin, their car keys or their home keys. If one had slipped and fallen it is unlikely that it would have happened to both. Even if both had slipped down a slope, there would likely be evidence at the side of a trail. If both had fallen, one would most likely have left the other to go for help.

I agree that this is beginning to look less like a regular missing hiker situation.

I hope they can be found soon.

6 people like this
Posted by Jim Rivers
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:16 am

After 4+ days missing, the chances are they will not be found alive.

Older people should hike in smaller groups for safety & even young people can fall prey to similar circumstances.

The difference is that most young people (adolescents) lack common sense while older people tend to get disoriented because in many instances, their minds are not firing on all right.

12 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2020 at 2:51 pm

<Jim Rivers,
These were not "older people". According to what I read, they were very active.

My husband is 77 and is a full-time Psychologist and expert in his field. I am 72 and taking care of
toddlers all day. Please do not lecture on how people should hike or assume people are old in their '70s.

I would look at the foul play angle. Who leaves phones, wallets, and walking sticks behind when hiking unless it is just
a small little stroll down the lane?

10 people like this
Posted by An Unforeseen Tragedy
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Cell phone coverage is poor at Pt. Reyes unless you have Verizon + one does not need to carry a wallet while hiking because a CA Driver's License is not needed and cash or a VISA/MasterCard is not accepted on trails.

A transient-related crime or a fall from the cliffs is the most logical explanation after all these days have passed.

4 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2020 at 2:57 pm

In the above article, it states that the housekeeper found wallets, phones, hiking gear, and walking sticks.
Do people go for serious hikes without hiking gear or "Walking Sticks"?

Foul play should be looked at now!

9 people like this
Posted by An Unforeseen Tragedy
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:20 pm

> Do people go for serious hikes without hiking gear or "Walking Sticks"?

^^ Only old people use walking sticks. You hardly ever see vibrant younger hikers carrying such outdoor amenities.

Not that there's anything wrong with walking sticks. I see old people using them in municipal parks as well.

It's the modern day 'cane' since 70 is apparently the new 50.

4 people like this
Posted by becca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:53 pm

The husband was a scientist working with parkinsons and aides and wife was a linguist and computer tech.
They probably got forced in to a car and taken. Maybe one of them was drowning in the bay and the other one tried to save them and drowned because a drowning person tries to climb on top of the rescuer to get air- I had a lifeguard certificate.
But I think they are alive being held somewhere

2 people like this
Posted by VS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 20, 2020 at 5:40 pm

Marin County Sheriif announces alerts from K9 cadaver dogs in area of Shell Beach. Search continues now as a "recovery mission" and they continue to work with the family.
Web Link

13 people like this
Posted by Blonde Mom
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 20, 2020 at 7:02 pm

I am 68 and am trim and active and still work. But I am definitely showing my age. And I'm younger than these people. We are definitely vulnerable in these older ages. People know you're "older" and may definitely take advantage of you. This absolutely has got to be foul play. Inverness has a low crime rate yes but it's not without crime. Nowhere is. I hope to God they find them alive.

5 people like this
Posted by Jo D.
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:27 pm

I live in this area of West Marin, although I am originally from Palo Alto,myself. To me, the whole thing is beginning to sound like a possible double-suicide, becoming more common among seniors for a variety of reasons. Questions I still have: why would they leave all their stuff behind? Did they take the key to the cottage or leave it open? Was one of them seriously ill, by any chance? Also they disappeared together on Valentine's Day, leaving everything behind, which has an eerie feeling to it. No one has even mentioned this possibility except 2 people I've seen so far. Either that or a homicide by a transient or other criminal. There are plenty of thieves out that way in West Marin breaking into parked cars, so there is that element, probably more prevalent on big holiday weekends, too.

5 people like this
Posted by tree29
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:38 pm

I have read that they were last seen at their rental on Friday, and also a witness saw them at Shell Beach. Which was it and which was the most recent?
They easily could have gone for a last minute stroll, just planning to enjoy the area another time, so not take items, but got lost, or injured; one fell and the other person tried to help and also got injured. Maybe they ended up in water, although searched, they should keep looking in water area. Doubt dogs would be wrong.
Not impossible for someone to take them, take them into a car, take them someplace else. Maybe with all the news/media that person (s) got scared and did something bad to them. Any animals around there that could take them to another area? Please keep searching. They have to be somewhere. Are they using infrared to help search?
Think about search on Maui, HI for missing hiker - Amanda. Are they reaching out to those search people, getting help with the use of technology, like they did in that situation?

4 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2020 at 7:24 am

The Valentines Day double suicide referenced above seems like the likeliest scenario. From the beginning, this seemed like two people who wanted to vanish. If that’s the case, then good for them for doing it their way.

For the people who have suggested they were abducted, I have one question — why? What possible motive is there?

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 8:08 am

I don't for one minute think this was a double suicide and hope that they can still be found alive.

If it was a double suicide, it doesn't explain the lack of bodies. They must have walked without taking their hiking gear so their remains would be close. It is was a double suicide, then why no note of explanation or goodbye to family? It doesn't seem to fit the circumstances.

Abduction seems far fetched, but something has happened and is now just as likely as accidental or deliberate cause.

3 people like this
Posted by Monica
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 21, 2020 at 12:10 pm

I have known Carol since graduate school at Stanford (almost 50 years now) and we have known Ian and Carol as a couple for several years. We've had dinner with them several times over these past years, and we always stop at the Farmer's market and chat. They are happy and healthy and enjoying life to the fullest. It is highly improbable that they wanted to disappear or commit suicide. They had an accident or were abducted. If they had an accident, there are plenty of items in that house with their scent; I'm puzzled why the search dogs can't pick it up. If they were abducted, I pray with all my might they they are alive.

5 people like this
Posted by Cupid Rising
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:20 pm

> The Valentines Day double suicide referenced above seems like the likeliest scenario.

^^^ is this considered a romantic gesture or undertaking? I would think not.

4 people like this
Posted by RjS
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2020 at 11:20 pm

John Deri living in Inverness mysteriously vanished from the area in 2014. Search his name. Also 2 women vanished from nearby beaches of pt. reyes within 2 weeks of each other in 2010. Claimed they were taken out by sneaker waves but their bodies never washed up nor were they ever found. I really think the authorities shouldn’t be ruling out foul play!

2 people like this
Posted by SCR
a resident of University South
on Feb 22, 2020 at 11:37 am

THEY'RE ALIVE!!!!! Just found 30min ago near Shell Beach. Trying to extract them by helicopter.

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