Couple Stole, Moved Lloyd’s Car On The Day Of Her Disappearance

In what may be more than a footnote to the indescribably sad case of the death of Erika Lloyd, who perished in the Mojave Desert in the summer of 2020, it was publicly learned this week that her car had been stolen after she drove it into a roadside berm near the intersection of Shelton Road and Two Mile Road in the remote desert area of Wonder Valley on June 16 of last year.
Lloyd expired while she was on a 1,687-mile sojourn to “recharge” in the aftermath of losing her business due to the COVID-19 shutdown during which she wandered into a remote section of the unforgiving Mojave Desert.
Unclear at this time and perhaps never to be known, but well within the realm of possibility, is that the action of two people – David Krough and Teala Campbell – may have indirectly contributed to Lloyd’s death. The displacement of the car by some two miles from where Lloyd apparently abandoned it and set out on foot before becoming disoriented and lost had the effect of drawing the search parties away from the spot where, seven months later, her skeletal remains were found.
Lloyd, who would now be 38, was 37 at the time of her disappearance. She worked as a beautician in the Northern California Walnut Creek community where she resided with her 12-year-old son.
Statements made by her friends and family suggest that the COVID-19 crisis, which had forced a closure of beauty salons and negatively impacted Lloyd’s cash flow, had left her in a state of depression. Early in the second week of June, Lloyd deleted the contents of her Facebook page. On Thursday, June 11, 2020, she embarked on what appears to have been a frenetic 1,689-mile misadventure which ultimately left her dead. That day, she left her son in the care of a friend in Walnut Creek and departed, driving her black 2006 Honda Accord, covering the roughly 533 miles between Walnut Creek and Joshua Tree National Park in something under 12 hours, and camped at the Jumbo Rocks campground on the night of June 11 and again on the night of Friday, June 12.
According to her sister-in-law, Lloyd was “under a lot of stress and wanted to get away and unplug.” At the time of her disappearance, there was a report one of Erika’s friends moved to Twentynine Palms in April 2020. There has been speculation that Lloyd had perhaps made the trip to see that person.
At the Jumbo Rocks campground, Lloyd made the acquaintance of two people, she told friends, one named “James” and the other “Christian.” Early on the morning of Saturday, June 13, leaving her camping gear at her Jumbo Rocks campsite in the care of James and Christian, Lloyd then drove the roughly 533 miles back to Walnut Creek, arriving later that day, and spent the night there with her son and her roommate. The following day, Sunday, June 14, she departed Walnut Creek, again without her son, to return to the Jumbo Rocks campground. Credible evidence suggests Lloyd re-arrived at Jumbo Rocks Campground in the late afternoon of June 14. In her journal that was recovered, Lloyd noted that James and Christian were not at the campground when she got there.
According to Lloyd’s mother, she spoke with her daughter for the last time on June 14 or June 15. She said Erika was “talking really fast” and it sounded like she was driving. There was no known telephonic contact between Lloyd and anyone after that.
Park rangers on Monday, June 15 came across Lloyd’s vandalized black 2006 Honda Accord in the parking area for the Indian Cove campground, some 21.9 miles from Jumbo Rocks but still within the confines of 1,234 square-mile Joshua Tree National Park. There was no camping equipment in the car or in its immediate vicinity when the rangers observed the vehicle. The windshield on the passenger’s side in the front had been broken, and the dashboard damaged. The rangers noted the vehicle’s presence in a report, and left a note on the car. That evening, the car had been removed.
The next day, Tuesday June 16, a video captured the car leaving the north entrance into/exit from Joshua Tree National Park at 1:20 p.m, and the car was later videoed passing a school in Twentynine Palms at 2:50 p.m.
On June 16, after being summoned by a report from a Wonder Valley resident, a California Highway Patrolman spotted Lloyd’s Accord parked on Shelton Road, east of Twentynine Palms, north of the intersection with Highway 62, facing south toward the highway, some 23 miles from Jumbo Rocks campground. The car was blocking the roadway such that it inhibited passage on Shelton Road, which is unpaved. The CHP summoned Twentynine Palms-based Bailey’s Auto Repair & Towing to tow the car. According to David Bailey, the proprietor of the tow company, the Accord’s rear window was broken, the front windshield was smashed on the passenger side, the airbag had deployed and the radio was damaged.
Bailey reported there was damage to the outside front of the vehicle in that the bottom of the radiator and the air conditioning condenser were pushed backwards as if the car had hit a very large object head-on. Bailey speculated that the car had run into a berm.
Beginning on June 16, Lloyd’s friends calling her cell phone encountered no answer. They continued to try to reach her.
On Wednesday, June 17, her family reported her missing, giving indication she might be in the area of Joshua Tree National Park. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department dispatched a helicopter to scour the area. That effort was not fruitful.
Lloyd’s camping gear was located at a camping site in Jumbo Rocks Campground. An expensive Yeti cooler she was not known to have owned was found among her possessions at the campsite.
The Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station was put on a special alert to be on the lookout for any sightings of her throughout the entirety of the more than 3,000 square mile desert area that includes Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley and outlying areas. Park Rangers began searching areas within the park. Sheriff’s deputies, including ones with canines, searched areas at the entrance of the park and its periphery, as well as along Highway 62.
The Joshua Tree Search and Rescue Team, guided by Doug Billings, engaged in an effort to find her or spot any signs that she was in the area.
On June 19, Lloyd’s parents caught a flight from Maryland to California in an effort to help with and intensify the search for their daughter. They posted photos of her and posters alerting the public to her disappearance in the area within the national park as well as in and around Twentynine Palms and Wonder Valley.
Friends and family persisted in trying to reach her by calling her cell phone. On June 20, it was answered by a man who said he had found the phone on June 18 “on Cottonwood,” that is on Cottonwood Drive in Twentynine Palms.
Lloyd’s parents remained intent on finding Erika, and intensified their efforts, leasing space on billboards in the Morongo Valley to feature oversized and highly visible photos of their daughter and make notice of her being missing.
Billings, a mining and cave expert who is familiar with the area and possesses global positioning, mapping and data-cataloging equipment that allows him and the team he is working with to carry out a methodical survey of the vast desert landscape, had joined as a volunteer in the search effort. Much of that effort was carried out along Highway 62 and in the general area around Highway 62 and Shelton Road, as the searchers fanned out in ever-widening swaths. Those searches came up empty.
Seven months later, on Sunday January 31, 2021, Lloyd’s body was discovered by hikers in a field a quarter mile east of the 5200 block of Danby Road in Wonder Valley at a point roughly 2.2 miles northwest of where her car was found, some three-fourths of a mile west northwest from where she had left it near the intersection of Shelton Road and Two Mile Road.
While it can be dismissed as speculation and conjecture, had the search for Lloyd been centered at the location where she had actually abandoned her car, given that helicopters were used in combing the area, she might have been spotted in relatively short order, perhaps as early as June 17 or 18, at which point she might yet have been alive.
For months, it was the assumption of the search crews and authorities that Lloyd had been at the intersection of Shelton Road and Twentynine Palms Highway when she walked away from her car. The Sentinel has learned that in December, the sheriff’s department had come to the conclusion that someone other than Lloyd had driven the Accord to where it was found on June 16.
It was established that the damage to the front undercarriage of the car, the radiator and the air conditioning condenser resulted from the car hitting a sand berm near Shelton Road and Two Mile Road, most likely after 3 p.m. on June 16.
After Lloyd’s body was found, an eyewitness came forward to relate that on June 16, 2020 at approximately 4:50 pm, a woman fitting Lloyd’s description was wandering around in a disoriented state on the desert field in the area of Two Mile Road/Danby Road, near where her remains were found more than seven months later.
According to the sheriff’s department, around 6:30 p.m. on June 16, 2020, David Krough, then 27, and Teala Campbell, then 33, came across the Accord, which was lodged in the berm. Indications are that they did not see Lloyd in the vicinity of the vehicle, and assumed the car had been abandoned. They used a pickup truck with either a winch or a chain and hook to separate the Accord from the berm. It is believed that Campbell then sought to drive it south on Shelton Road. By the time the car had reached Twentynine Palms Highway, roughly 1.98 miles from where Lloyd had abandoned it, the car was severely overheating, and the couple abandoned the car in the middle of Shelton Road.
The sheriff’s department said that on June 6 of this year, it had identified Campbell and Krough as the individuals who had moved Lloyd’s car from where she had left it. An investigation ensued, and yesterday, July 8, both Krough and Campbell were arrested, and are now in custody at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Krough, who has prior convictions, is being held on $50,000 bail for being a felon with a firearm and an additional $25,000 bail for vehicle theft. Campbell has prior convictions for burglary, a firearms violation, forgery, receiving stolen property and utility theft. She is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
There are some contradictions in the evolving narrative relating to the case. It is indicated on the Bring Erika Home Facebook page that Campbell in some fashion cooperated with the authorities, and came forward to tell the sheriff’s department that she and Krough had moved the Accord on June 16, 2020. Nevertheless, she is subject to a $1 million bail hold. Another inconsistency is that the timeline given with regard to Lloyd’s disappearance indicated that the Highway Patrol was informed about the Accord blocking access onto Shelton Road from Highway 62 sometime around or shortly after 4 p.m. on June 16, 2020. According to the sheriff’s department, however, Krough and Campbell did not take the car until sometime after 6 p.m.
Doug Billings, whose intimate familiarity with the Mojave Desert has resulted in his being prevailed upon to lead searches there when individuals or parties go missing, led the June 2020 effort to locate Erika Lloyd.
Billings responded to whether he believed Erika Lloyd might have been found alive if Krough’s and Campbell’s attempted theft of Lloyd’s car had not occurred and the initial focus of the search had been at the point where she actually abandoned her car – at Shelton Road and Two Mile Road – such that those engaged in the search had not presumed that she had left her car on foot near Highway 62 and Shelton Road.
“I’m not sure that would have saved her life, as we were unaware of her true condition at the time of the accident,” Billings said. “She surely could have been lying in distress for 24 hours alive, and it is not impossible that Erika could have been saved. For sure, I think she would have been found by searchers much sooner. There would have been tracks to follow, and she was only three-fourths of a mile from her car, well inside an initial grid.”
Billings emphasized that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department search effort was first rate.
“The San Bernardino County search teams are very good at what they do,” he said. “The focus of the actual search was hampered terribly in retrospect by this crime. The months of anguish on the family alone is unforgivable. The criminals easily could have made an anonymous tip as soon as they saw the news. Additionally, unknown amounts of limited resources could have gone somewhere else instead. It breaks my heart to see all the mishaps and wrongdoing that contributed to it all. The family suffers immensely.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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