SWEET HOME — Rachanda Pickle was wearing a T-shirt, black sweat pants and tennis shoes when the 13-year-old on vanished on July 10, 1990 from her home at the state highway maintenance compound near the Santiam Junction.
Her disappearance triggered one of the larger searches in the Linn County’s history.
Although her body never has been found, Pickle’s stepfather, John Arthur Ackroyd, 63, was charged Wednesday with her murder.
He is currently serving a life sentence at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem for the Christmas Eve 1978 murder of Kaye Jean Turner near the Metolius River. Ackroyd is eligible for parole, but according to the Linn County Sheriff’s Tim Mueller, he has not submitted paperwork to do so.
The morning she disappeared, Pickle’s mother, Linda, had gone to work at Black Butte. Ackroyd had driven to a state highway office in Bend, but returned home after only about an hour.
Ackroyd told authorities Rachanda was watching cartoons when he asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. She reportedly declined and when Ackroyd returned home about 12:45 p.m., she was gone.
The family had lived at the state highway compound for six years.
Rachanda — nicknamed Chandy — and her brother, Byron, had gone to live with their biological father, Steve Pickle, in Medford earlier in the summer. But Rachanda grew homesick and came back a few days before her disappearance.
Sheriff Art Martinak supervised the search operation over a rugged 50-square-mile area in the Lost Lake, Hoodoo Butte and Potato Hill areas that are lined with jagged lava beds.
At times, the effort included more than 100 deputies and volunteers from Linn, Lane, Benton, Marion, Douglas, Deschutes and Jefferson counties.
Martinak told a Democrat-Herald reporter at the time that despite the rough conditions, mounted posses and search teams on foot were attacking the terrain.
“There are lots of nooks and crannies that you can’t see by air,” Martinak said, adding that a helicopter search was especially useful for steep areas where someone on foot or horseback couldn’t effectively search.
Teams were assigned to 60 subsections and also also searched dozens of dirt roads in the rural, sparsely populated area.
“This is one of those things when you hope you’ll get a call from the family saying she’s in Los Angeles or somewhere,” Martinak said during the search.
Current Sheriff Tim Mueller was a deputy involved with the search and rescue team in 1990.
“We must have laid 150 miles of string line laying out the grids,” Mueller said. “We spent several days up there several times. It’s rough country and there’s lots of brush.”
“I know that my daughter’s dead,” Steve Pickle said in a 2003 newspaper interview.
Former Detective Sgt. Jim Salsbery was instrumental in the investigation that culminated with Ackroyd’s conviction in the death of Kaye Jean Turner.
“We always believed Ackroyd had something to do with his stepdaughter’s murder,” said Salsbery, who retired in 1996. “It just didn’t add up.”