Frantic search for missing girls |

Frantic search for missing girls

Nevada City resident Rhonda Phillips is asking for the public’s help in finding her nieces, whose parents are suspects in the murder of a San Francisco man, Phillips said Wednesday.

“They could be here. They could be anywhere,” Phillips said. “They have friends everywhere. I know North San Juan can be an enclave. I know they will live out of their car.”

Viana Lee Carelli, 6, and her 3-month-old sister, Faith Carelli, have been missing since Jan. 25 when their parents, Richard Carelli, 38, and Phillips’ sister Michele Pinkerton, 38, picked up Viana in Santa Cruz for a parental visit.

Pinkerton’s parents – Viana’s grandparents – have custody of the girl. Pinkerton and Carelli picked her up after San Francisco police questioned them about the killing.

“We need to find them, bring them to justice and get those kids back,” the distraught aunt said on Wednesday.

The baby has severe Down Syndrome and has medical needs that Pinkerton and Carelli may not be meeting as they run from authorities and live out of their white Mercury Mystique sedan, Phillips said.

The couple is known to use methamphetamine, and when they aren’t living in their car, they will stay in hotels and storage units, Phillips said.

Carelli and Pinkerton are suspects in the beating death of their roommate, computer software developer Leonard Milo Hoskins, 49, according to San Francisco police.

The couple lived in an in-law unit at the house where Hoskins lived on Lamartine Street in the Ingleside district of San Francisco, Phillips said.

A witness told San Francisco police that he had seen Carelli hit Hoskins in the head Dec. 22 with a piece of lumber, then drag him inside the house and come out later smeared with blood, according to Phillips and a Feb. 13 article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The witness later told Hoskins’ sister – who had been looking for her brother for weeks – that he didn’t call authorities right away because he didn’t like police, according to the Chronicle article.

Hoskins’ sister called San Francisco police, who interviewed Carelli and Pinkerton and searched the home with cadaver dogs on Jan. 24. The dogs detected the smell of a decaying body in Carelli’s van that day, but police could not immediately obtain a search warrant for the vehicle, so they had it impounded, Phillips said.

Police found Hoskins’ body in the van Feb. 1, according to a news release from the San Francisco Police Department.

It took another four days – until Feb. 4 – for arrest warrants to be issued for Carelli and Pinkerton, according to the Chronicle.

By then, Carelli and Pinkerton were long gone, Phillips said.

On Jan. 25 – the day after police impounded their van – the couple picked up Viana at her grandparents’ house in Santa Cruz, Phillips said.

Viana’s grandparents were awarded custody of the girl after Pinkerton and Carelli were convicted of methamphetamine charges in Santa Cruz several months earlier, Phillips said.

Pinkerton had never let her parents see Faith, Phillips said.

Pinkerton had recently secured visitation rights to see Viana after her landlady – Hoskins’ girlfriend and a former therapist – vouched for Pinkerton in court and said the mother was making progress with her sobriety, Phillips said.

“My parents (Viana’s grandparents) hadn’t heard anything about the murder when (Pinkerton and Carelli) showed up,” Phillips said. “Nobody called and said this was happening.”

When the girl’s parents took her, Viana had only enough clothes for a weekend, Phillips said.

Pinkerton called her parents on Jan. 27 – the day she was supposed to return Viana – and said the Mercury Mystique had a flat tire. That was the last time anyone in her family has heard from the couple, according to Phillips.

Carelli and Pinkerton remained at large Wednesday afternoon, according to a spokeswoman for San Francisco Police Department.

The California license plate on the white 1996 Mercury Mystique is 5VIB951, according to a police department news release.

Phillips and the San Francisco police are asking for anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Carelli, Michele Pinkerton or their daughters Viana and Faith to call local authorities or the San Francisco Police Department at (415) 553-1651.


To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail or call 477-4236.

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