The sadness I get from the runaways

I posted one runaway case with today’s updates, a girl from Philadelphia. I won’t say her name because, God willing, her case will get removed eventually and I don’t want this blog entry coming back to haunt her later when she applies for things like rental accommodation and college and a job.

She’s been missing since mid-October 2015 — almost thirteen months. Usually I wait two years to post kids classified as runaways, but I sometimes make exceptions if the runaway is under 14. (Don’t ask me why 14 is my arbitrary cutoff. It just is.) In this case, the girl was thirteen and a half years old.

She’s listed as 5’2 but she’s probably grown an inch or two in the past year. She’s Hispanic, but I would have mistaken her for black. She certainly seems to enjoy fixing her hair in African-American styles; one photo I found showed her with braided extensions down to her waist. But I looked up her surname, and although it doesn’t sound at all Spanish, a Puerto Rican university bears that name.

I found her Facebook account, which is not uncommon in runaway cases. Loads of them are on Facebook, and many keep active accounts even while they’re missing. I also found the girl’s Twitter account —  now THAT I’m pretty sure I’ve never found before, not for a missing person. To check and see I searched charleyproject.org for the keyword “twitter” and came up with only a link to Charley’s own Twitter feed and links to the Twitter accounts of two relatives of MPs.

Of course I could only see what this girl chose to make public, but she hadn’t updated the public part of those accounts since well over a year before her disappearance — May 2014 for Facebook, July 2014 for Twitter. (And she has 496 Twitter followers, over 5 times more than my personal Twitter has.) I snagged several pictures of her from both accounts, and wound up with twelve photos altogether, far more than average. I could have added more, actually, but generally I stop at twelve.

Now, I have no idea what her home life was like before she disappeared. All I know is the street where she lived in Philadelphia, and the elementary school she attended. (Oh, and that she has at least two brothers, probably three, maybe more. That info came from her Twitter.) I checked the school website and it’s a K-8. If you go by her age, she was probably in seventh grade, perhaps eighth, when she went missing. That’s all I know about her personal circumstances before she disappeared.

But nevertheless, the information I uncovered while putting together this child’s casefile just made me feel sad. According to the NCMEC and NamUs, she already had at least one tattoo, and perhaps more, by the time she went missing. Some of her pictures betrayed her age, but others did not; she was clearly trying to look much older than she was. One tweet, posted when she was eleven years old, said, in part, that she was “mad as SHIT” because she liked a boy who didn’t like her back. (I don’t want to quote the whole tweet on here.) Her Facebook page had a photo montage with the caption reading “Trust No Bitch.” When she posted that image, she was two weeks past her twelfth birthday.

Let me emphasize that I am not condemning this girl for her makeup and her social media posts. I think some of them are unwise, but she’s a kid, and kids make mistakes. Certainly I’ve made serious mistakes before about what I post on social media, and will probably keep doing so, and I’m an adult. I just think it’s sad because, from what limited information I have, it looks like she was growing up way too fast.

And now she’s been missing for over a year. There’s a good chance she’s got caught up in the child prostitution trade, drugs, that sort of thing. Child traffickers see kids like that as fresh meat. A child can get snatched up and devoured by those vipers within a few days of leaving home. If this girl has gotten involved with that sort of thing, as a substantial percentage of runaways do, she could be anywhere in the country, or even elsewhere in the world.

She might be too ashamed by what has happened to her to call home. She want to call home but be prevented through threats of violence or worse.

Or she might be dead, lying a slab in a morgue somewhere, or in a potter’s field. Or perhaps still undiscovered, in a shallow grave or a landfill. Think of Syllania Edwards, for example, who ran away from Oklahoma and turned up dead — on that notorious mesa in New Mexico, the youngest known victim of more than half a dozen women murdered by a serial killer who remains unidentified.

Wherever she is, this girl from Philadelphia, I hope she’s safe, and I hope she turns up alive and able to put her life back together.

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7 thoughts on “The sadness I get from the runaways

  1. cris November 10, 2016 / 2:32 am

    Ridiculous fb for someone that young does she have parents? Where aree they…

    • Meaghan November 10, 2016 / 8:25 am

      Since we don’t know the answers I don’t think it’s a good idea to judge anyone.

  2. Peter Henderson Jr. November 10, 2016 / 11:39 am

    For my post ‘Ida’s Girls’

    “It started with prayers. On birthdays, anniversaries, sitting in a church late at night. Prayers from mothers, fathers and children, prayers for a missing loved one.

    For years, prayers that would only be heard by God.”

    “…Their names at first were all Jane Doe, one by one their true identities were learned;

    Monica Candelaria, 22, Cinnamon Elks, 32, Veronica Romero, 28, Julie Nieto, 24, Victoria Chavez, 26, Virginia Cloven, 24, Doreen Marquez, 24, Evelyn Salazar, 27, her niece Jaime Barela, 15, Michelle Valdez, 22, who was pregnant, and Syllannia Edwards, 15, a teen runaway from Lawton, Oklahoma.

    Most of Ida’s girls had been found. All were found nude; buried so close together it became clear that the person who had killed them had made his own personal graveyard.

    Once again, Albuquerque authorities early reports said nothing about the victims except for the fact they were involved with drugs and possibly prostitution. They also said that they believed that many of the victims had never been reported missing, and that in the case of those who had been reported, the families did little to find them.

    Detective Lopez, the person who knew the most about the women said nothing. It’s possible she was ordered not to speak, possibly she knew if she did speak candidly it would be the end of her career.

    Outside of drugs and prostitution all the authority’s early assumptions about the victims would be proven false in the months that followed.

    Back in 2009 I wrote, “It was a classic case of a government institution trying to cover their butts. The truth was that the clear majority of the victims had been reported missing, some several times. All but one, the teen runaway from Oklahoma, grew up in Albuquerque. And their families had searched for them; walking from one street to another putting up posters throughout the city. Several made MySpace pages for their loved one. The truth was, except for Detective Lopez ‘s efforts – little had been done by the city to find them.

    It ended with prayers, and thousands of balloons sent flying into the skies over Albuquerque. 10 of Ida’s girls were finally going home.”

    FYI: Ida Lopez still refers to the missing and murdered women as “my girls.”

  3. JR November 12, 2016 / 6:08 pm

    I just wanted mention that being Latino and looking Black are not separate cultural states. There are many Latinos who are of Afro-Caribbean heritage given that a great deal of Latin America takes place in the Caribbean and historically much of the African slave trade took folks to Latin American islands and nations on the Caribbean and near-Atlantic.

    So, as this may assist you in further reporting and descriptions – wearing your hair in fashions that favor Black culture, ‘looking’ Black and being Latino is definitely a thing that happens.

    Hope that helps!

    • Meaghan November 12, 2016 / 6:12 pm

      I wonder if I should list her as biracial instead.

  4. TB November 14, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    Off topic, but this entry made me think of MP Cindy Rivera (I think) who you note as having an actual tattoo of “trust no bitch” in a very prominent place…neck or high collarbone area I think. What things did she go through in her life to make her want something so negative in such an obvious place?

    And yeah, I too cringe whenever I read an entry and the child has a tattoo. Or several. Like under the age of 16, just…how?

    • forthelost November 16, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      There’s a guy missing from California with “Bitch” tattooed on his arm. I assume the upper arm, otherwise he’d never be able to get a job.

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