A Bay Area bicycle shop has raised $4,000 in reward money in a quest for information about a former employee and Sacramento-area resident who disappeared with her boyfriend a month ago while bicycling in Peru.
Jeff Jerge, owner of The Pedaler Bicycle Shop in El Sobrante, said Jamie Neal had worked as a bicycle mechanic at the shop for 2 1/2 years before leaving with her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, on a bicycle trek through South America.
Neal, 27, and Hand, 25, were last seen boarding a bus in Cusco, Peru, on Jan. 25. Their friends and families have not heard from them since, said Hand's sister Alena Hand of Sacramento.
The two had been posting on Facebook almost daily since arriving in Buenos Aires in late November for the planned four-month trip, Alena Hand said.
But since Jan. 25, she said, "There's been no financial activity, no email activity, no Facebook activity. There's been zero contact."
She said it is out of character for her brother not to stay in contact with his family when traveling.
After hearing nothing for two weeks, Alena Hand said her mother contacted the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru. The couple reportedly were seen in Lima on Jan. 26.
Jamie Neal's sister, Stacy Fingers of Antelope, said embassy workers told the family there have been reports of other sightings.
"But there's no documentation," she said.
Fingers said her sister graduated from Elk Grove High School and became interested in bicycling while living in the downtown Sacramento area. She said Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand had been living most recently in Oakland.
Concern for their safety is heightened given a Feb. 13 warning by the U.S. Embassy in Lima on its website of a kidnapping threat in the Cusco area.
The embassy said it had received word that members of a criminal organization might be planning to kidnap U.S. citizens visiting the Cusco and Machu Picchu areas.
Jamie Neal and Garrett Hand are experienced bicyclists. Alena Hand said her brother is a seasoned traveler who spent the past three years working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska.
Jerge is asking anyone with information to call him at (510) 589-6644, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.