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Few leads in search for tech billionaire’s missing teen

A 'MISSING CHILD' poster on a pole with a photo and details, against a blurred city street backdrop.
A missing child flyer for Mint Butterfield at the corner of Hyde and Eddy in the Tenderloin on Wednesday, April 24. | Source: Jackson Stephens/The Standard

Update (April 28, 2024): Mint Butterfield has been found in San Francisco, according to police. A 26-year-old man has been charged with child abduction and other crimes in connection with her disappearance one week earlier.

Five days after the child of a tech billionaire went missing, cops say they’re still chasing the first and only real lead in the case: that the mother believes 16-year-old Mint Butterfield fled to one of San Francisco’s toughest neighborhoods.

“That’s it,” Sgt. Adam Schermerhorn, a spokesperson for the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, told The Standard Friday morning. “We have some names we can’t verify because they’re nicknames. Other than that, we don’t have much to go on.”

Detectives have been walking the Tenderloin block by block, interviewing people on the streets in hopes of finding some clue of the teen’s whereabouts, he said. San Francisco police are helping out.

Though Mint is considered endangered because of mental health and drug issues, officials say they have no reason to suspect foul play.

California requires law enforcement agencies to treat runaway cases with urgency, even if the child ostensibly left of their own accord. But with no crime, Schermerhorn noted, there’s no warrant and not much detectives can do beyond what they’re doing now. That is, canvassing suspected haunts and soliciting tips from the public.

“This is a voluntary missing juvenile,” he said. “[They] may not pop up until [they] want to pop up.”

The teen’s high-profile parents—Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield and Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake—have drawn widespread attention to the case, for better or worse.

Butterfield co-founded Slack, a workplace messaging app, in 2013 and left the company after Salesforce snapped it up for $28 billion in 2021. Forbes estimates his net worth is around $1.6 billion. Butterfield and Fake founded image database Flickr in 2004 and sold it off to Yahoo! In 2005 for $30 million.

They married in 2001, had Mint—their only child together—in 2007 and divorced the following year.

Detectives got so many calls and messages about Mint’s disappearance, according to Schermerhorn, that the Marin County Sheriff’s Office had to set up a distinct tip line, which went live less than a day ago.

Meanwhile, Schermerhorn said, investigators are dealing with misinformation from flyers somebody with no official ties to the case disseminated online.

“We often have people create their own flyers when someone goes missing,” he said, “but we’ve seen a lot more for this. They’re all over Twitter and Instagram, and the sad thing is, they’re steering potentially useful information away from law enforcement.”

In addition to fielding crowdsourced tips, detectives have been working with Fake to figure out what they can glean from electronic devices the teen may have used—although Mint didn’t have a cellphone, to the mom’s knowledge, and didn’t appear to be active on social media.

“We don’t have any digital means of tracking [their] location,” Schermerhorn said. “But we’re trying to recover any tablets, computers or cellphones—if we’re able to—and try to forensically download them.”

Fake filed a missing-person report on Monday morning, telling authorities she last saw Mint around 10 the night before at their home in Bolinas, a small coastal town about an hour north of San Francisco. The mom said she found a note indicating that the teen ran away, apparently with nothing more than a suitcase. 

“It is unclear how Mint left the area, as they did not have access to a vehicle, or phone,” the sheriff’s office wrote Thursday in its latest public update about the case.

Based on conversations with Mint, the mom told deputies she believed the teen was headed for the Tenderloin. Because of the teen’s previous threat of suicide, authorities deemed Mint “at risk.” 

Though detectives heard Mint may have run away with a man in his late 20s or early 30s, Schermerhorn said they’ve been unable to corroborate as much and have no reason to think the teen was abducted.

Described as 100 pounds and 5 feet tall with curly reddish-brown hair and pierced eyebrows, Mint was last seen in a black sweatshirt, flannel pajama pants and black boots. They may be toting a gray suitcase.

Detectives ask anyone with information about where to find Mint to call 415-479-2311 or email

Jennifer Wadsworth can be reached at

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