POLSON – “MISSING” says the recent Facebook post, which has been shared by dozens of other users of the social media site.
Underneath are the names of eight teenagers who have disappeared in Lake County in less than two months, and pictures of four of them.
Comments about the posts include ones saying they don’t feel safe living in the county anymore and ones who wonder why the media or law enforcement is “covering up” the news that so many children are missing.
But all are teens who have run away from home. Two of the eight have been located.
“No crime has been committed,” Lake County Undersheriff Dan Yonkin said Tuesday. “Running away from home is not an offense; there is no statute in the Montana codes against it that I know of.“
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office received reports of 46 runaways last year, Yonkin said, and he knows Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal law enforcement receives similar reports as well.
Even with the eight who have run away in the past two months, this year the number of runaways is down. There have been 18 such reports to the sheriff’s office in 2012.
“I wouldn’t call it a rash,” Yonkin said of the eight reported missing since Aug. 1. “Sometimes kids run away to go to a party, or run away to hang with friends. Sometimes parents even know where their child is, but report them as missing because they haven’t come home.“
Still, Yonkin understands the worries runaways cause parents and families. He’s dealt with it with one of his own children.
“It’s a frustrating situation,” Yonkin said. “You really have no recourse from agencies you’d think could help you.”
The sheriff’s office on Tuesday asked for people to keep an eye out for the latest two Lake County teens who have run away, a young girl and boy believed to be camping in the Mission Mountains Wilderness Area east of Pablo.
Fourteen-year-old Bailey Speagle and Justin Krahn, 15, were reported missing Sunday morning.
Deputies determined the pair had “purposely taken camping gear, clothes, food, water and other necessary items to spend an undetermined amount of time” in the wilderness area, the sheriff’s office said.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue located the juveniles’ tracks Sunday and “did confirm that they were heading up into the mountainous wilderness area,” Yonkin said.
The search was called off when it turned dark, and was not resumed.
“Their mission is search and rescue, not search and capture,” Yonkin said. “It’s hard to ask volunteers to take time off from their jobs to go out and hunt down runaway kids.”
“I appreciate that it’s a bit more of a unique situation, in that they didn’t flee to a city where help is within reach if they need it,” Yonkin continued, “but at the same time, people who don’t want to be found can be hard to catch.”
Family and friends continue to search the area, Yonkin said.
The sheriff’s office said Beagle is a white female, 5-foot-2 and 110 pounds with dark brown hair and blue eyes. Krahn is a white male, 5-10 and 145 pounds.
The tent they took with them into the mountains is a blue-and-yellow Kelty backpacking tent and the teens are carrying duffle bags and backpacks.
The sheriff’s office told members of the public who might be in the area not to approach the teens if they spot them, but to contact the sheriff’s office as quickly as possible.
“Try to note details of specific location and direction of travel,” the news release advised.
Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.