After 22 seasons of The Bachelor, we thought we’d seen it all — but boy, were we wrong.
One of this season’s most buzzed-about contestants is Bekah Martinez, a 22-year-old nanny who lives in Los Angeles. She’s made headlines for her 14-year age difference with lead Arie Luyendyk Jr., and her standout pixie cut. But now, she’s making waves for something else entirely: She was recently removed from a missing persons list in California after someone recognized her from the show, all thanks to a local news report.
Here’s how it went down: When posting its cover story to Facebook this week, the North Coast Journal asked if readers recognized any of the 35 people that were listed as missing from Humboldt County on the California Department of Justice’s website. One did, and pointed to Martinez’s image.
After comparing some of Martinez’s Instagram photos to her missing person’s photo and realizing they appeared quite similar, the publication reached out to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Their call prompted the deputy who initially took Martinez’s missing person’s report to reach out to her on Thursday via the cell phone number they had on file. After speaking to Martinez, the deputy confirmed that she was indeed not missing, and she was removed from the list.
PEOPLE spoke to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, Samantha Karges, who provided some backstory. According to Karges, Martinez was reported missing by her mother at about 1:06 a.m. on Nov. 18. She allegedly hadn’t heard from her since Nov. 12.
According to her mother’s account, Martinez was allegedly planning on working at a marijuana farm in the area. Martinez’s mother told deputies she contacted Martinez via a friend’s cell phone on Nov. 12 at around 11 a.m. and told her she wanted her to come home. Martinez allegedly refused and said she would see her mother in seven to eight days. At the time, Martinez told her mother that she was near Eureka, an area about 45 minutes north or south of any marijuana farm.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office attempted to contact Martinez and others associated with her, receiving no response. The deputy followed procedure, following up on all leads and forwarding the case to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division.
On Dec. 12, a deputy sheriff contacted Martinez’s mother by email to inquire whether she had heard from Martinez. Martinez’s mother responded to the email confirming that Martinez had contacted her late in the afternoon on Nov. 18, and stated that she was headed home. The deputy requested Martinez to contact the investigator of the case as soon as possible.
As part of procedure, deputies are typically required to make direct contact with the missing person to confirm status and wellbeing. A deputy was not able to make direct contact with Martinez, which explains why she was not removed from the Missing and Unidentified Persons System until this week.
Of course, Martinez has been active on Twitter and Instagram throughout the time she was reported as missing. On Sept. 17, she posted that she was “giving up” her phone and social media for several weeks — presumably because she was taping The Bachelor. She resumed posting Nov. 23.
On Friday, Martinez addressed the bizarre news of her being “missing,” tweeting: “MOM. how many times do I have to tell you I don’t get cell service on The Bachelor??”
“Honestly the scariest thing about this story is that my efforts to conceal The Worst Drivers License Photo Of All Time have been thwarted,” she added.
As for the marijuana farms, Karges told PEOPLE that “a lot of people” come to the area of Humboldt County to work on them because they’re considered a “quick way to make money.”
“All of these farms are out in the hills, so they’re in a place where there’s no cell service,” Karges said. “Oftentimes people will come up here and they won’t come back.”
According to Karges, many of the farms don’t have permits and are illegal.
“It’s something that we’ve been battling with for years,” she said. “It’s actually a huge problem here, so I’m sure that her mother had a legitimate concern — because women can be held against their will, or forced to do things they don’t want to do.”
The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.