Human remains found near missing Berkeley musician’s car

A search team has found human remains in a remote area of Humboldt County not far from where a missing Berkeley woman’s car was discovered, authorities said.

Betty “Beebee” Baxter Simmons, a 75-year-old musician and artist, was last seen hurriedly leaving her Berkeley apartment by a neighbor on Sept. 5. Almost three weeks later, on Sept. 24, a timber company employee found her silver Toyota Prius abandoned on Snow Camp Road, a logging road east of the tiny town of Korbel.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office deputies found evidence that the car had become stuck after trying to turn around at a locked gate. A note with the words “Tow to Berkeley” was left on the car’s windshield. Inside the Prius, deputies found a cellphone that was either turned off or dead, luggage and food.

Humboldt County Sheriff public information officer Samantha Karges could not confirm that the remains, which were found Friday, belonged to Simmons. She said there was no evidence of foul play.

Simmons’ half-sister Wendy Simmons-Taylor told Berkeleyside that the remains were limited to only a few bones, a skull and dentures, but that searchers found Simmons’ purse and license nearby.

Inside Simmons’ car, investigators discovered a business card for a State Farm office in Vacaville that Simmons had visited on Sept. 2. According to Karges, Simmons asked for directions to Tara House, the main office of Chagdud Gonpa Rigdzin Ling, a Buddhist retreat and meditation center in the Trinity Alps near Junction City.

Junction City is about an 80-minute drive on Highway 299 from Blue Lake. Blue Lake is a couple of miles northwest of  Korbel, which is 30 to 40 minutes west of Snow Camp Road.

If Simmons had made it to the Chagdud Gonpa Rigdzin Ling retreat, she would have found it closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with only a skeleton staff on the grounds.

How she came to be driving on Snow Camp Road is not known.

Simmons is 5 feet 6 inches tall, about 150 pounds, with gray hair. Friends described her as passionate about her work, boisterous and outgoing, the type of person who would easily engage a stranger in conversation.

On the Friends of the United Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco Facebook page, Donagh McKeown said Simmons was well-known among the Irish American and traditional music communities across the Bay Area. He said she made hundreds of video recordings for her own public access TV show “Heads Up Berkeley.”

McKeown quoted an acquaintance of Simmons, Jack Guilder:

“She was quite the character here in SF. I met her first in 1985 when I moved here,” Guilder said. “She was hosting a popular session every week at Moriarty’s pub in the East Bay. She devoted a lot of time and energy into following the muse and supporting the music …

“She was always ready with a joke or two, was well armed with questionable factoids and seemed to know everyone on God’s Earth. Definitely an important part of the local color.

“It’s a tragic loss on so many levels. RIP Miss BB… I’m sure you are reuniting with many of our beloved old friends now.”

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