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Empty Boat a Ruse to Cover Flight, Deputies Say

Crime: Lifeguards found craft off El Segundo and feared foul play. Orange County authorities say the owner faces sexual assault charges.

June 01, 2002|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When authorities found Daniel Farinholt's empty boat anchored a quarter-mile off El Segundo over the Memorial Day weekend, they initially believed he had fallen overboard or killed himself.

Then lifeguards learned that Farinholt was wanted in Orange County on charges that he sexually assaulted three children and that he had missed a court appearance a day earlier.

Detectives believe he tried to make his disappearance look like suicide and is on the run. They found blood on the boat but believe it was part of the ruse.

"The amount was so small it would not cause a fatality," said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

"It was probably put there as a decoy to throw us off, but we believe he is alive and well."

Divers spent two days searching the ocean bottom near his boat but found no sign of Farinholt.

His BMW was near his Manhattan Beach home, but it yielded few clues.

Farinholt, 42, was charged in March with four counts of sexual assault.

Prosecutors allege in court records that Farinholt committed lewd acts against two girls and a boy who were living in the same Lake Forest house between 1997 and 2000.

Farinholt was released from jail after posting $200,000 bail, agreeing to surrender his passport and have no contact with his alleged victims. He faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted.

Farinholt recently moved from Lake Forest to Manhattan Beach, close to his job as an executive at an El Segundo information consulting firm.

He failed to appear at the South Justice Center in Laguna Niguel on May 23 for a pretrial hearing. A day later, lifeguards patrolling the El Segundo coast by boat came across Farinholt's 24-foot cabin cruiser, the Reel'n and Rock'n, anchored just off the beach.

Lifeguards thought the owner fell overboard or killed himself. When they noticed the blood, they also considered the possibility of foul play.

Television cameras converged on the beach as divers searched. The Orange County Sheriff's Department heard about the case and made the connection.

"It was a weak attempt to convince people he died, but we know he's alive and well," said Amormino, adding that Farinholt might be hiding at friends' homes.

Farinholt is described as white, 5 feet, 10 inches, 160 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.

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