A search-and-recovery operation for a Scottish tourist reported missing in a treacherous stretch of ocean off the California coast turned into a manhunt after authorities began to suspect he faked his death to avoid sexual assault charges back home.
Kim Gordon was reported missing by his 17-year-old son on the evening of Feb. 25, prompting the Monterey County Sheriff's Office to launch a desperate search for the man that included at least two dive teams and Coast Guard helicopters.
"We got a 911 call that basically told us a swimmer had gone out at Monastery Beach here in Monterey County and hadn't returned and was thought that he was in distress and needed to be rescued," Capt. John Thornburg of the Monterey County Sheriff's Office told ABC News. "Based on that report, our dive team along with the state parks dive team went out for two days trying to locate him and we weren't able to."
After the search failed to turn up any sign of Gordon, officials grew suspicious of the account Gordon's son gave them, finding numerous inconsistencies in his story, Thornburg said.
"During the course of those ... interviews, the story started to fall apart," Thornburg said.
He said that in one interview the son told detectives that he and his father hitchhiked to Monterey County from Los Angeles. But in another interview, the son said they rented a car, Thornburg said.
"They were supposedly camping at different parts of the state but had no camping gear. They had two backpacks with minimal items in them," Thornburg said. "All that led them to go, 'Well, this guy's making this up.'"
Once they began to doubt that Gordon even went into the water detectives contacted prosecutors in Scotland and were informed that Gordon is facing multiple sexual assaults charges and is scheduled to appear in court on March 11, Thornburg said.
"The discovery of these charges that he is potentially facing out of Scotland for sexual assault, all of this kind of snowballed at that point and we've been looking for him ever since," Thornburg said.
He said Gordon's son flew back to Scotland on Feb. 28, and he and Gordon could face charges if he ever returns to the United States and it is determined he made a false police report.
While Gordon, who is in his 50s, is still considered the subject of a missing-person case, Thornburg said law enforcement agencies throughout the area are on the lookout for him. He said his department has also alerted the U.S. Marshals Service.
"They're not doing anything active right now because there's no warrant out of Scotland," Thornburg said of the U.S. Marshals.
Thornburg said authorities are hoping that there was a misunderstanding and that Gordon will show up at his court hearing in Scotland on March 11 "so we can close this out."
"But if he doesn't show up on the 11th then that warrant gets issued," Thornburg said.
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