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Search for missing Chula Vista mother heads east to the desert

Volunteer teams eye Fish Creek, Salton Sea, and Glamis in search for Maya Millete.

Teams are concentrating on desert areas east of San Diego in their ongoing search for the remains of Chula Vista mother, Maya Millete.

News 8 traveled to the Anza-Borrego desert this past weekend for the search effort by Team Maya.

Fish Creek was where Maya’s relatives fanned out with about 30 search volunteers Saturday, armed with metal detectors, shovels and a drone.

“We are searching for a needle in a haystack,” said Richard Drouaillet, Maya’s brother-in-law.

Drouaillet said the missing woman would off-road in the area with her husband Larry Millete, who is now behind bars and charged with his wife's murder.

It's been almost 10 months since the mother of three was last seen.

“Honestly, at this point, we're probably just looking for clothing and bones, as hard as that is to say,” said Drouaillet.

The San Diego County District Attorney said at a news conference following Millete’s arrest that the husband would have been driving a black, Lexus SUV with a personalized plate, MAYLANI, on January 8.  He is suspected of dumping his wife's body approximately 2.5 hours from the family's home in Chula Vista.

Credit: KFMB

“We're moving eastward. All that area about two and half hours from Larry's house. That's where we're focusing our searches from now on,” said Drouaillet.

The Milletes went camping with their three children and relatives in the Glamis Beach sand dunes area the weekend before she went missing, which was over New Year’s weekend. Court records show the family also went to Glamis over the Thanksgiving 2020 holiday.

News 8 mapped out four Border Patrol checkpoints equipped with license plate reading cameras.

Credit: Google

The route to Glamis along Interstate 8 avoids Border Patrol cameras on the way out, but not on the way back to Chula Vista because the cameras capture westbound vehicles only.

The main route to the Salton Sea hits two checkpoints with cameras, but those license plate readers can be avoided if a driver takes northern routes through Julian or Borrego Springs.

Search volunteers started focusing their attention on the Salton Sea area recently after information came out in court that Larry Millete allegedly called his children from jail and told them to watch a movie called "Shot Caller."

The film makes several references to the Salton Sea with remote, abandoned shorelines and vast wilderness areas surrounded by sand dunes.

“We'll be out here for the season until we bring Maya home to her kids,” said Drouaillet.

News 8 asked Chula Vista police whether license plate cameras may have picked up the Lexus SUV on January 8. Investigators did not respond to an email as of Monday night and they typically decline to discuss evidence in the case.

News 8 has put in a public records request with the Border Patrol under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in an attempt to gain access to the license plate camera photos.

WATCH: Search for Maya Millete in Fish Creek, Anza-Borrego Desert.