Monday, April 29, 2019

List Series: 7 Cases of Runaway Theories Gone Wrong

Many children and teens who go missing are runaways. According to statistics, one and seven children between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away at some point. With those statistics being relatively high, many police departments will classify missing children/teens as runaways unless they see evidence that shows otherwise. Unfortunately, though, there are many cases where a missing child is mistakenly believed to be missing on their own accord, but then it later turns out that they met with foul play. Below is a list of such examples: 7 cases of runaway theories gone wrong. 

7. Kimberly Arteaga

Kimberly Arteaga (16) was last seen by her family members at her home in Lemon Grove, California on November 13th, 2013. Initially, it appeared that her family members thought Kimberly ran away and would return soon. When that did not happen by January 7th, 2014, her family members reporting her missing. Police classified her as a runaway and the case quickly went cold. 

Years later, in January 2017, the investigation took a drastic turn. A man taking his dog for a walk found human remains at the Otay Valley regional park in Chula Vista. The man called the Chula Vista police, who sent the remains to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office. Two months later, it was confirmed that the remains belonged to Kimberly Arteaga. Detectives classified her death as a homicide. 

Although Kimberly was believed to be a runaway, forensic testing revealed that Kimberly likely died around the time of her disappearance in November 2013. No arrests have been made in the case, however friends of Kimberly believe that her boyfriend at the time had something to do with her death. Her murder remains unsolved. [read more]

6. Ivory Green

17 year-old Ivory Green vanished from Utica, New York on March 6th, 2004. The teen was a habitual runaway, however on the evening she disappeared, Ivory had every intention of coming home. In fact, Ivory was last seen walking towards her home. She called her mother as she was walking and said she was on her way home--but unfortunately she never showed up.

Ivory was classified as a runaway once she was reported missing. However, two months after she vanished, Ivory’s mother received a phone call from a distant relative named Plummer Reed Jr., who said that he knew why Ivory was missing and he wanted to share what happened. But before he could, he was shot three times and the phone line went dead. Plummer’s cousin, Benji Reed, was later arrested for attempted murder, and another man was arrested for supplying Benji with the gun. Plummer survived the shooting, but ever since he has denied knowing any information about Ivory’s disappearance. Since this incident, investigators have reclassified Ivory as an endangered missing person, and they believe she was murdered. [read more] [also featured on the 'suspicious phone calls' list]

5. Silling Man

Silling Man (19) was a college student living with her uncle in Lawrenceville, Georgia before she vanished on October 8th, 2017. She returned home shortly thereafter, however just days later she vanished again--and this time, no missing persons report was filed. It seemed that Silling had voluntarily left home and did not want to return. 

At first, this appeared to be true. It is believed Silling was heavily influenced by her boyfriend at the time, 21 year-old Emmett Davis. She began living with Emmett at various hotels in the Gwinnett County area. The more time the two of them spent together, the more controlling and abusive Emmett became over Silling. Silling's family members believed she was where she wanted to be, which is why they were extremely shocked to learn that on December 21st, 2017, Silling's body was found inside a vacant mall in Gwinnett County. It was determined that she died from asphyxiation--someone had restricted her breathing. She had been dead for two weeks before she was found. Silling's death was classified as a homicide.

After Silling’s body was found, police interviewed Emmett several times but did not have enough evidence to charged him early on into the investigation. Eventually, police were eventually able to obtain warrants and subpoenas for phone records after Silling’s’ lab results returned. It was then that investigators determined Emmett and Silling had taken a cab to the vacant mall together on the day Silling was murdered. Emmett was arrested and charged with Silling's murder and is currently behind bars as his case is pending. [read more]

4. Ebby Steppach

Ebby Steppach was last seen alive by her family members on October 24th, 2015.  The 18 year-old lived with her older brother in Little Rock, Arkansas at the time. There were a lot of suspicious circumstances surrounding her disappearance; yet for some reason she was still initially classified as a runaway. 

The day before she vanished, Ebby had confided to her stepfather that she was sexually assaulted and she planned to file a police report. However, whenever her stepfather tried to follow up with her about it, he was unable to get ahold of her. She was last seen at her grandmother's house on the 24th, and according to her brother, she never returned home after that. The following evening, Ebby's brother received a phone call from her. The two had a brief conversation, during which Ebby sounded disoriented and kept telling her brother she was outside of his house--but she was not. A few days later, Ebby's car was found abandoned in Chalamont Park. All of her personal belongings were inside of the vehicle. Ebby was reported missing shortly thereafter, and police began investigating her case as a runaway. 

Ebby's family and friends never believed that she ran away. In fact, just days after her disappearance, Ebby's best friend Kailey Foley and her mother Margie Foley went to the park where her car was found to see if they could find any clues themselves. Margie said she was immediately hit with the smell of decomposition coming from a drainage pipe at the park, so she called the police. Police brushed her off, claiming that it was likely a dead animal. However, nearly three years later, in May 2018, Ebby's remains were found in that very drainage pipe. She had been murdered, and her remains had likely been in that location since her disappearance. No suspects have been arrested and the investigation into her death is ongoing; but at this point, it is quite clear that Ebby was not a runaway after all. [read more]

3. Alycia Mesiti

Alycia Mesiti was reported missing on August 14th, 2006. The 14 year-old was living with her father Mark Mesiti at his home in Ceres, California at the time of her disappearance. The day Alycia was reported missing, Mark's girlfriend Shelly Walker traveled from Los Angeles to Ceres to visit them. Shelly originally planned to pick Alycia up from a relative's house in San Jose on her way to Ceres, but she told by Mark to come straight to Ceres instead. When Shelly questioned Alycia's absence, Mark said that she ran away. Shelly subsequently went to the Ceres Police Department and reported Alycia missing as a runaway. In an initial investigation, detectives stated that they did not find any evidence of foul play and they, too, believed Alycia had run away.

Mark was eventually evicted from his Ceres home, so he moved to Los Angeles with Shelly. Alycia remained missing, and as time passed, the circumstances surrounding her disappearance seemed more and more suspicious. A year before Alycia vanished, a Santa Clara County court found her mother unfit to raise them as she struggled with depression. This left Alycia and her brother in custody of their father, even though he had a criminal record for various offenses such as domestic violence and drunk driving. Three years after Alycia's disappearance, in 2009, investigators brought cadaver dogs to Mark's old home in Ceres. After getting a hit, investigators dug up the backyard and found human remains. Those remains were eventually identified as that of Alycia Mesiti. Despite being classified as a runaway, it appears that Alycia never actually left home. 

Alycia died of acute drug intoxication--she had a combination of 8 different drugs in her system. After this determination, police went to Mark and Shelly's home in Los Angeles, only to find that they were running a meth lab in their home where children were living. They were both arrested and charged with child endangerment. Meanwhile, the investigation into Alycia's death continued, and detectives found numerous pornographic images and videos of minor children--including Alycia--on Mark's computer. From there, detectives came up with the motive of Alycia's death: Mark had given Alycia this toxic combination of drugs to prevent her from resisting his abuse. In 2017, Mark sentenced to life in prison without parole. [read more]

2. Kayla Reed

Kayla Reed was only 15 years-old when she vanished from her family's home in Livermore, California on December 2nd, 2005. Her mother, Angel Sheets, reported Kayla missing three days later--but she told police that Kayla was a habitual runaway and that she believed Kayla had plans to sneak out on the evening of December 2nd. Due to this, police classified Kayla as a runaway, and they initially explored a theory that she might have ran off with a person she met online. This theory never panned out, as detectives could not find any evidence that Kayla was corresponding online with somebody she did not know. 

The investigation into Kayla's disappearance took an unexpected turn on January 10th, 2006, when Kayla's body was found floating in the Delta Mendota Canal. The autopsy was unable to determine an exact cause of death, however it was clear that the manner of death was murder. Additionally, the autopsy determined that Kayla had been dead for over a month by the time she was found...which was the same amount of time she had been missing. At this point, investigators began to question the runaway story that Kayla's mother Angel had told them.

About a year an a half after her body was found, investigators announced that Angel is actually a person of interest in Kayla's murder. Angel's friend, Dennis Murphy, is a person of interest as well. Both were reportedly using meth at Angel's home the night Kayla vanished--and they both tell different stories about what exactly happened that night. Still, neither of them have been charged with anything related to Kayla's death. Her murder remains unsolved today. [read more]

1. Megan Nichols

Megan Nichols (15) disappeared from her home in Fairfield, Illinois on July 3rd, 2014. In the months prior to her disappearance, Megan had been at odds with her mother, Kathy Jo. Megan had apparently been seeing an older guy behind her parents’ back, and Kathy Jo had taken away Megan’s phone after finding out that Megan had been texting him. However, according to Kathy Jo, Megan and her were in a much better place in July of 2014. Megan had her phone back, but was apparently no longer in contact with the older boyfriend. On the morning of July  3rd, Kathy Jo and Megan planned to run errands together, but Megan stayed back after claiming that she wasn’t feeling well. Kathy Jo said that when she returned from the errands an hour later, Megan was gone. She left her phone in her bedroom—which had been completely reset—and a note for her mother that said, “I love you, but I will never be happy here. Don’t look for me.”

Over the next three years, there were many searches for Megan in Fairfield and many other surrounding areas that turned up nothing. Police initially classified Megan as a runaway, but changed her status to endangered missing after years went by without any trace of Megan.

Finally, on December 26th, 2017, remains were found in a wooded area in Wayne County, Illinois. A month later, those remains were confirmed to be Megan’s. Despite the belief that Megan had runaway, it is likely that she never left the Wayne County area. 

In 2020, Brodey Murbarger was arrested for Megan's murder. His case is pending. 

For further reading...

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