Missing truck driver Ryan Gabriel Rodriquez was found alive near Kerman Wednesday night, just as his family walked Fresno's Christmas Tree Lane handing out fliers asking for help to find him.
Fresno County sheriff's deputies were called about 7:50 p.m. by someone who spotted Rodriquez, 32, just outside Kerman, Lt. Louis Hernandez said. Rodriguez was in good health and detectives were talking to him to find out where he had been. Hernandez said Rodriquez would be reunited with his family Wednesday night. No other information about his discovery was released.
Rodriquez's childhood friend, Deserie Martinez, had just run out of the last few fliers at Christmas Tree Lane when she learned Rodriquez had been found. Rodriquez's friends and relatives began jumping for joy and hugging each other.
"It was magical, God definitely heard our prayers," Martinez said. "We prayed again and thanked the Lord that he was found alive."
Rodriquez had been missing since last Friday, when he failed to return to a job site north of Huron after leaving to fill up his water truck. His co-worker went looking for him about 3 p.m., and found his truck abandoned near a well where they fill the truck. A family friend said his sunglasses and his broken phone were left at the scene. Rodriquez was nowhere to be found.
Rodriquez's disappearance drew widespread attention from law enforcement, media and community members.
Family and friends started looking for Rodriquez Friday afternoon and a California Highway Patrol plane joined the effort that evening. A sheriff's helicopter came up empty in a search on Saturday.
Family and friends, determined to do all they could to locate him -- alive, they hoped -- had offered a $20,000 reward on Tuesday for information on his whereabouts.
During a news conference Tuesday at the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, Rodriquez's mother, Cindy, pleaded for the public's help on her son's birthday.
"Thirty-two years ago, I gave birth to my only son, Ryan," Rodriquez said at the Tuesday news conference. "People love you, Ryan. We want you back."
Sheriff's spokesman Chris Curtice said that three detectives were working the case.
A Facebook page called Bring Ryan Home reached 3,000 followers by Tuesday evening. The posts included memories of the Firebaugh High School graduate, requests for help to find him and tips about possible sightings.
On Wednesday, the family upped the reward to $100,000, and printed fliers with his photo and a description of him.
Wednesday night, Rodriquez's parents, Cindy and Gabriel Rodriquez, and Ryan's sister Rina led a pack of about 25 people through the Christmas Tree Lane crowds, passing out more than 500 flyers.
"No one is giving up," Rina added. "I said that I wouldn't give up until he came home."
Holding the hands of her daughter and husband, Cindy brushed away tears as she walked along the lane, remembering the happier times when she brought her young children to the lane as part of their family holiday tradition.
The family could not be reached for comment later Wednesday, after Ryan Rodriquez had been found.
But during their walk along Christmas Tree Lane, family members said they were determined to find him.
"We're doing anything we can do to get him home," Cindy Rodriquez said.
The reporters can be reached at (559) 441-6330, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com