Taken or ran away? Missing children cases require police to determine whether kids were abducted or left on their own

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Two 13-year-old boys missing from Sandy plus a missing 17-year-old girl from Tremonton, another missing 13-year-old boy from Sandy and two missing teens from Cedar City were all reported to ABC4 News in the past eight days. In all cases, police have to determine whether it was an abduction or just a juvenile running away.

“The thing we have to consider is that running away is not a crime,”  Detective Kevin Mallory of the Unified Police Department said. “So we’re not investigating a crime so we have to be mindful of the resources that we allocate into somebody that’s voluntarily gone missing.” 

Officers start by asking parents about the child’s history, emotional state, friends and social media activity to see if leaving suddenly is out of character.

“We look at situations where this is very abnormal behavior,” Det. Mallory explained. “They disappear without any kind of notice, without any kind of trace. There’s nothing leading up to it. That becomes a lot more suspicious…We’ll start pulling surveillance from nearby houses and businesses and figure out where it is that this kid was last seen and just start working every lead from there.”

Police say these situations are often just miscommunications and the kids aren’t really even missing.

Christina Judd, in the Director of Public relations for the Salt Lake City Police Department.

“Personally I make my kids answer five questions before they can leave the house,” Judd told ABC4 News. “They think it’s annoying but ‘Who are you going to be with?’ How are you getting there? How are you getting home? What are the last names and I need a phone number’.”

Four of the six children we showed in this story were located safely but 15-year-old Larry Cooke and 16-year-old Asia Loomer-James from Cedar City are still missing. Police think they could be headed to Oklahoma, Montana, Nevada or California.


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