A 17-year-old Riverside girl reported missing by her parents on the afternoon Feb. 14 was found unharmed at a bus depot in Omaha, Nebraska, that same night and has been reunited with her family.
The girl, a student at Riverside-Brookfield High School, was reported missing at 2:25 p.m., but police discovered she had left the Chicago area by bus during the morning hours on Feb. 14. He parents last reported seeing her at about 8:30 a.m.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said his officers launched an immediate investigation, including all of the officers on duty at the time and others called in to assist. In addition to speaking with family members, police also contacted the girl’s friends to gain information about her whereabouts.
“When a juvenile goes missing from Riverside, we will use all resources available to us to recover and return that juvenile home,” Weitzel said. “In this case all of the pieces fell together and the police department received full cooperation from all parties we contacted.”
Police broadcast information about the girl to surrounding police agencies and entered information about her into the National Crime Information Center computer database as a missing juvenile, but it wasn’t until 8:30 p.m. that investigators got a break in the case.
While at the Trailways bus depot in Omaha, the girl borrowed a cellphone and called home to tell her mother that she was OK and not to worry. The girl’s parents were able to save the number the call was made from and notified police.
An investigator called the number provided by the girl’s parents and spoke to a woman who said she had loaned her phone to a girl who “looked scared.” The woman told an investigator that the incident happened in the Trailways terminal in Omaha, and Riverside police immediately contacted that city’s police department to advise them of the situation.
Omaha police sent officers to the bus depot, while Riverside police contacted Trailways to request all buses be stopped from leaving the station. Omaha police were able to locate the girl inside the station, just before she boarded a bus. Trailways said that bus was headed to Colorado, according to Riverside police.
She was taken to a child welfare center in Omaha and police contacted the girl’s parents, directing them to pick up the girl.
“The recovery of this missing juvenile is just exceptional,” said Weitzel. “Riverside police quickly responded to the situation and worked directly with the family, the juvenile’s friends, Trailways Bus Company and the Omaha Police Department.”