Three months before she went missing after her shift at work, Sara Gomez’s ex-boyfriend threatened he would stalk her at her job and “pistol whip” her, according to court documents released Monday.
Sara Diana Gomez, 24, of Bend, was reported missing Feb. 20 after failing to return home from work for several days. A wide-ranging search for Gomez is ongoing, and a 31-year-old Bend man, Bryan Penner, described as Gomez’s former boyfriend, is in custody related to her disappearance.
Gomez and Penner’s relationship lasted from January 2012 until November 2017, according to a restraining order petition filed in December in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
According to the document, Penner wrote threats to Gomez on Facebook after their breakup, saying his “only option is to stalk (her) job and pistol whip her.” He sent her a message threatening suicide, then reportedly posted nude photos of Gomez online.
He then came to Gomez’s workplace on Dec. 1 and 2, she wrote to Deschutes County Circuit Judge Stephen Forte.
On Dec. 7, Forte issued the restraining order, requiring Penner to stay 150 feet from Gomez at all times and avoid contacting her in any way.
Gomez alleged several instances of abuse in her petition. She feared she was about to be physically injured by Penner, she said.
“I am concerned for my safety because of FB posts and Bryan coming into my work; he hasn’t received mental health counseling after attempted suicide,” she wrote.
Friends and family of Gomez spent much of the weekend searching east Bend near an apartment the two shared for several years. The area has much open space and construction sites, according to Elizabeth Fennell, Gomez’s sister.
A team of volunteers with Deschutes County Search and Rescue aided the search over the weekend. But volunteer search parties were twice called off due to adverse weather.
On Monday, police still believed Gomez could be found alive despite the growing odds of a negative outcome, according to police Lt. Clint Burleigh.
“We’re working pretty hard right now to find Sara,” Burleigh said Monday.
Burleigh said officers and investigators have used overtime in their search, which has involved interviewing dozens of people and sifting through “tons” of information submitted by tipsters.
By Monday, more than 3,800 people had joined a Facebook page, Finding Sara.
Gomez’s family had long feared Penner would harm her.
Fennell said Penner held a gun to Gomez’s head and slammed her head through the drywall of their apartment.
Fennell herself was the victim of an assault perpetrated by Penner in 2016.
While camping, Penner had become angry at how Gomez was dressed, Fennell said. Penner attacked Fennell when she came to her sister’s defense.
“He grabbed me by my hair and slammed my head into the cement repeatedly,” Fennell said.
Penner pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault related to the incident.
“If he’s capable of doing that to her sister in public, we know that he’s capable of what we’re all thinking,” Fennell said.
Penner has not been charged in relation to Gomez’s disappearance. He’s being held on suspicion of violating the restraining order.
Crook County officials issued a no-bail warrant for Penner’s arrest for alleged probation violation based on information from the missing person investigation. If Penner were to be released from jail, he would transfer immediately to the authority of the Crook County Sheriff’s Office.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Monday his office is “quite confident” Penner was involved in Gomez’s disappearance.
Gomez has three older brothers and two sisters. She worked at Albertsons for four years, most recently in the deli section.
She ran track in high school and loved fishing and camping, like a true “Oregon girl,” her sister said.
“She’s just a beautiful soul,” Fennell said.
Over the weekend, police asked for help from people who may have seen a vehicle — a sea-foam green 2004 Chevrolet Malibu with a Carolina Panthers sticker on it. Hummel’s office is withholding the name of the car’s owner, but he confirmed the vehicle does not belong to Sara.
Bend Police’s Burleigh said investigators commonly withhold information during missing-person searches so they can independently corroborate key details.
“It’s pretty sensitive,” Burleigh said of the search. “So we’re not going to tell people what we’re doing or how we’re doing it.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, email@example.com