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D.A. charges missing hiker with meth possession

Authorities say they found substance in Nicolas Cendoya's car and now he must answer to the felony charge.

May 01, 2013|By Nicole Santa Cruz and Lauren Williams

One of the two hikers who went missing in Trabuco Canyon and inspired a $160,000 search effort has been charged with possession of methamphetamine, officials said.

Deputies are reporting that they found 497 milligrams of methamphetamine in 19-year-old Nicolas Cendoya's car while they were searching for the Costa Mesa pair, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman with the district attorney's office.

Cendoya was sent a letter to appear in court on May 22 to answer to the felony charge, which was filed Tuesday.

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Emami declined to comment on whether prosecutors thought the drugs were connected to the hikers' disappearance.

Cendoya and Kyndall Jack, 18, ventured into the Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest on Easter Sunday but became lost by the evening. The two called authorities about 8 p.m. from a dying cell phone to report that they were lost.

Cendoya was found late April 3 — shoeless and disoriented — in the thick brush, less than a mile from his parked BMW. Jack was found the next day on a steep hillside, obscured by shoulder-tall chaparral.

Officials estimated that the cost of the search, which drew scores of volunteers as well as professional trackers, totaled roughly $160,000.

When he was released from the hospital, Cendoya described the ordeal in the wildness as a harrowing misadventure, and both hikers said they quickly became delusional out in the wildness, at times hallucinating.

Jack said that she believed she was being attacked by wild animals and mistook tree branches for straws she could drink from.

"I was just out, unconscious," Cendoya said, speaking briefly to reporters after being discharged. "I can't even tell you when I woke up ... was in lucid dreams, lucid hallucinations, every single day."

Neither could recall exactly how, or when, they became separated.

Both were treated for dehydration.

dailypilot@latimes.com

Twitter: @TheDailyPilot

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