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The Strange Case of the Kinda, Sorta 'Missing' Santa Barbara News Anchor

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Television news media in Southern California was on alert Wednesday afternoon as news spread that a popular Santa Barbara-based anchor was reported missing. Paula Lopez of KEYT had last been seen that morning, and her family was left hoping she would return safely.Lopezis a Santa Barbara native who spent six years of her TV news career in Los Angeles at KCAL-9 from 1990-1996. During that time she commuted home to Santa Barbara while covering major stories here in L.A., like the OJ Simpson trial and the 1994 L.A. Riots.

The veteran anchor and mother of three had reportedly last been seen at her own home at around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The news station shared a statement about the case:

"This morning we learned that a beloved member of the KEYT family, Paula Lopez has gone missing. We have been in touch with her family and know they, as well as local authorities, are doing everything possible to find her safe and sound. It is clearly a difficult time for her family and our own family at KEYT. All of us at KEYT stand ready to assist in any way we can. For now, on behalf of KEYT and NPG of California our thoughts and prayers are extended to Paula as well as her family and those searching to find her. We hope for her safe and speedy return."
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An extensive search ensued, which involved deputies, dogs and helicopters scouring the area.

Typically law enforcement requires a person to be missing for 24 hours before launching a search, so the response to the Lopez case "raised questions about whether the family received favorable treatment," notes L.A. Now. Lopez is considered a fixture in Santa Barbara, as is her husband, the Presiding Judge of Santa Barbara Superior Court Frank Ochoa.

Just in time for the evening news at about 5:30 p.m., however, the search was called off. Lopez' family contacted the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's office to let them know Lopez was home safe and sound.

It is not clear where Lopez was, why she was considered missing, or how she came to be at home, though cameras did capture Ochoa arriving at the family home with a woman in the passenger seat of his vehicle.

"The family will not make any further comments regarding the circumstances surrounding her disappearance," says KEYT. L.A. Now adds:

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"Paula has been located,” a spokesman for the family told reporters gathered outside the home Wednesday night. “We’re not giving out any details right now.”