By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Gone

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The next day, Tuesday, September 21, at 12:42 PM, Thiele went on Facebook, where her account name was Tiff Ster, and posted a long message. On the local Climb Truckee-Tahoe group page, as well as other community pages, she made a shocking accusation that, up until this moment, she had not aired publicly or shared with the police.

In the post, Thiele said she was raped in the summer of 2018 by a ski patroller from Alpine Meadows (now Palisades Tahoe). “He put something in my drink, concealed a recording device from me and placed a cell phone under a pillow,” she said. “I remember feeling very dizzy after 1 drink. My memory is fragmented from that point. I found the cell phone placed face down under a pillow… I was scared and alone. I screamed. He turned me on my back and pit [sic] the phone in my hand as he got on top of me and raped me. ”

Thiele said she had filed a report with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office a month after the alleged incident. Her case was forwarded to the district attorney’s office, she said, but the DA decided against filing charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Though it’s not conveyed in her Facebook post, Thiele’s initial accusation against the patroller was that he had used a recording device while they had sex, without asking her permission. The sheriff’s report from 2018 does not mention rape, and it does not include an allegation that Thiele was drugged. But something — it’s unclear what — happened that compelled Thiele to frame the event differently years later.

“I have tried so hard to forgive myself. I have tried so hard to find meaning again, ”she wrote on Facebook. “Next week I had plans to climb El Capitan. I thought this would be my big comeback. A way to put the past behind and show that I am still strong. I’m strong, but I’m not that strong. We all have our limits. Life has been such a beautiful journey, and I am so sorry for those that I have left behind. ”

Thiele said things hadn’t been the same for her since the incident, and that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “I can no longer trust a relationship,” she went on. “I see a world filled with injustice in which police blame women. Police harassed women and they treated them differently then [sic] men. Men blame women. Women blame women. Women blame themselves. I don’t want to be strong anymore. I’m tired of battling and being blamed. I just want to go somewhere that I can find peace again. ”

Immediately after the post went up, concerned friends started reaching out. A climbing buddy named Trevor Vichas, a student from South Lake Tahoe, was sitting in class when he saw the message, about 20 minutes after it appeared. He texted Thiele immediately: “Hey. Call me. If you need a friend, I’m here. Reach out. ” She didn’t answer. He called and left a voice mail, saying, “Call me back.” No word.

Alexander saw the post at 1:45 and also texted. “Hey hey hey,” he wrote. “You HAVE plans to go to Yosemite in two weeks. We’re both looking forward to it and we’re going to have a great time. I just read your post. I’m going to call in a little while. You’re OK. ”

When she didn’t respond, Alexander texted again, at 2:08, saying he was going to request assistance. “Please let me know you’re OK,” he wrote. “I’m going to call for a welfare check if I don’t hear anything from you really soon,” he wrote.

Thiele responded at 2:20. “Don’t call the police,” she texted. “I don’t want them to [put] a legal hold on me. I’ve made my decision. You don’t understand what I’ve been through. I’m so sorry that I can’t climb with you. I just can’t do this anymore. He was never held accountable. I’m just so angry that he was never held accountable. “

Less than a minute later, she repeated, “I’m so sorry.”

Kimberlie Flowers, a marriage and family therapist from Truckee who first met Thiele in 2014 through a cycling club, was coming in from paddleboarding when friends started calling her to ask if she’d seen the post. Flowers had not. She hadn’t been to Thiele’s apartment before, so she started calling anyone she thought might be able to help locate her.

Another friend and climbing partner named Haley, who asked that her last name not be used, also called Thiele repeatedly. It was around 2:30 by then, almost two hours after the post. “I had this bad gut feeling,” recalls Haley, who lives about two hours away from Reno but met Thiele to climb regularly. “This was not like Tiff.”

Thiele’s phone was still receiving calls, but she didn’t pick it up. Then, after one of several unanswered attempts by Haley, Thiele texted her at 2:48. “I want you to have mine [climbing] rack, my bikes, my paddle board, and any other gear you want. I’m so sorry, ”Thiele wrote.

Haley got the text, then tried calling again, but Thiele’s phone was turned off and the call went to voice mail.

Hours of agony followed. Someone called the police department in Reno and requested a wellness check. Thiele’s mother, Nancy, obtained keys and went into her daughter’s apartment in Reno, but she wasn’t there.

Haley and Flowers were in contact with Nancy as well as Thiele’s stepdad, Dave Fish, trying to piece things together. What places meant the most to Thiele? Where might she go? One location stood out: Donner Summit.

“That was a place where her soul felt inspired and happy and a place where maybe she thought she could find peace,” Haley says.

At 4:12, a call came in to 911 dispatch in Truckee: someone driving near Donner Summit had seen a car parked at a freeway exit. Soon after, the Truckee fire department found a woman hanging 50 feet above the road beneath the Interstate 80 overpass, just north of Donner Lake. Nearby, inside a Subaru with an orange mountain bike on its rack, responders found a camp chair, a bike helmet, a laptop, and an iPhone, turned off. Thiele’s driver’s license was in a purse in the car.

She had climbed onto the steel and concrete bridge, scooted toward the center, and used carabiners to securely attach one end of her green nylon climbing rope to the structure. Then she said goodbye.

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