Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, with help from several other law enforcement agencies, continues to search for a missing Fernley woman and the man who abducted her from the Walmart parking lot early Saturday morning. Thursday, at a press conference at the Fernley Substation, Sheriff Frank Hunewill and Irion’s family members pleaded with the public to report anything they may have seen that could be helpful in finding her and the man who kidnapped her.
“We are making a plea to the public right now to help us locate our person of interest’s vehicle,” Hunewill said. “Right now, everything that we know has been put out there, so that’s why it’s important to gain some new information from the public. Anybody that has any information that might lead to us solving this case, and if you think it might not be important, let us decide if it is or not.”
Irion is 18 years old, 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a blue shirt with a gray sweater and gray sweatpants. She has a smiley face tattoo on her right ankle and a nasal septum piercing.
Hunewill said LCSO has received many tips that have been helpful, and asked that all other tips be called in to Lyon County Dispatch at (775) 463-6620 or Secret Witness at (775) 322-4900.
“We are out of time,” said Casey Valley, Irion’s brother. “It’s so critical right now that anything you know, or heard, it needs to be reported.”
Irion was abducted at about 5 a.m. Saturday while she sat in her car in the Walmart parking lot, where she was waiting for a shuttle bus to her job at Panasonic in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. Her car was found near Sherwin Williams at about noon Tuesday. Investigators are also searching for a dark colored Chevrolet 2500 High Country 4-door pickup they believe the suspect may be driving.
Valley reported Irion missing Sunday evening. Valley said he went to bed early Saturday evening, but he wasn’t worried that Irion wasn’t home yet. He got up Sunday morning after she would have left for work, so again he didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary. But when she didn’t come home from work on time Sunday evening, he began to worry, and he called friends and family members to see if anyone had heard from her. He also called hospitals and jails in surrounding counties.
“It was at that point I knew something was wrong, and I made sure to call dispatch on Sunday night,” he said.
On Monday, Valley, who was his sister’s emergency contact, got a call from Human Resources at Panasonic, telling him that she had been a no-call, no-show at work Saturday and Sunday. He also found out that day that her debit card had last been used early Saturday at a Fernley gas station, at about the time she would have been going to work. He went to Walmart, where security officers allowed him to watch surveillance video from Saturday morning, to see if she showed up on time to meet the shuttle bus. That’s when he saw a man force Irion to move from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat of her car, then get in and drive away.
“This person did say or do something to Naomi that made her move over from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side,” he said.
Valley immediately called Lyon County detectives to report what he’d seen on the video.
“I was mortified,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see that. I was just trying to verify that she made it to Walmart.”
Detectives were able to determine an area where Irion’s phone had pinged off a cell tower, and while searching that area, found her car near Sherwin Williams. Hunewill said they have searched the surrounding area with drones, and they are still working to determine where else her phone may have pinged.
Valley said the car was intact, unlocked and sitting out in the open with no apparent damage and nothing obviously missing.
“You could see it right from I-80,” Valley said. “That tells me it was not a target of opportunity. It seems like something personal to me.”
Wednesday, LCSO released surveillance photos that showed what they believe is the suspect wearing a gray sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head, and the pickup truck they believe the suspect was driving.
Thursday evening, LCSO, the Pyramid Lake Tribal Police and the FBI searched an area along State Route 427 between Fernley and Wadsworth. Sgt. Marty Dues said they had no direct evidence leading to that specific area, but he said they planned to search other areas around town in the coming days.
LCSO’s initial press release said the man walked to the Walmart parking lot from a homeless camp behind Walmart. Thursday, Hunewill said they aren’t sure about that.
“We don’t know if he’s a homeless guy or not, because we don’t know who he is yet. We don’t know where the truck comes from, but we’re still working on that piece,” he said.
In its press release Tuesday, LCSO said evidence found in Irion’s car indicated that a crime occurred, but Hunewill declined to disclose what that evidence was. Detectives also declined to comment on whether they had seen surveillance video of the suspect getting out of Irion’s car and into the truck where her car was found, and whether Irion was with him. Hunewill said detectives are trying to talk to everyone in the homeless camp, and trying to identify all of the vehicles that were in the surveillance videos to contact people who could have seen something.
Hunewill said LCSO didn’t release any information to the public about the case until Tuesday because they didn’t initially have enough information.
“It took us a couple days to get that stuff all gathered up, so hence we’re here today,” he said.
Hunewill said announcements about the case will be placed on all the electronic message boards on highways throughout the area.
Valley moved to Fernley in June of 2020, and Irion came to live with him last August, planning to take a gap year before attending college.
Cartwright said Irion is very active on social media, particularly Instagram and Snapchat, and asked that anyone who knows her on social media immediately call the sheriff’s office if they see anything posted with her in it. Valley said Irion’s routine was to arrive early for the shuttle, and she would spend the time on social media while waiting.
Family members described Irion as a friendly, trusting person who loves people.
“I’m so afraid that someone betrayed her trust,” Cartwright said.
Irion’s father, Herve Irion, arrived in Fernley Thursday from South Africa, where he works in the State Department.
“I went to her bedroom and I started looking at her shoes, her makeup and everything she has, her dirty laundry, and started crying,” he said. “We really need your help. She’s my daughter, but she’s also your daughter, your sister. She needs help and we need to find her.”
Irion’s family members thanked the community for the way it has rallied to help them, offering to help search, putting up signs, sharing information on social media, and even bringing the family meals.
“To the people of Fernley, the people of this area, the amount of support that you guys have given us, it’s amazing. I’m baffled,” Valley said. “I never thought this community could be like that, so thank you guys.”
The family is organizing a public search on Truck Inn Way at 11 a.m. Saturday, and Cartwright has started a Go-Fund Me account to accept donations that will be used to help other family members travel to Nevada and to help with search expenses.