Fast-acting parents and crafty police managed to track down a teenage runaway from Escondido before it was too late, ending one family’s nightmare.
On Monday morning, a 15-year-old high school girl skipped town with her much older boyfriend, 25-year-old Jesus Nolasco, a man her parents had forbidden her from dating.
When the teen didn’t show up to class, her school called her parents.
The parents immediately contacted the runaway on her cell phone, but she refused to come home.
At that point, the girl’s parents contacted Escondido police. Soon, investigators tracked the pair to Shelton, Wash., about 1,200 miles away, chasing a job opportunity for Nolasco, according to Escondido police Lt. Neil Griffin.
Police say the girl was there willingly with Nolasco but is under the age of consent.
“It was a relationship that would have eventually put this young girl on her own – on her own a long way from home,” Lt. Griffin explains.
By Friday morning, the teen was safe and in protective custody, while Nolasco was in Shelton jail awaiting transport to San Diego County Jail.
According to officials, Nolasco faces charges of committing lewd acts with a minor and contacting an underage girl for sex – felony crimes with serious consequences, if convicted.
Investigators say the teen’s parents acted quickly but ignored the signs leading up to their daughter running away from home.
“Some of the signs parents can watch out for are a drop in grades, high truancy level, change in attitude around the house, secretive phone calls,” says Lt. Griffin.
The case is part of a much bigger problem involving young runaways who often end up in dangerous, compromising situations.
Police say these kids are promised many things but instead of a happily ever after, they are often left alone and homeless. From there, some turn to drugs or alcohol. Others are even manipulated into sex slavery.
In 2012, some 90,000 runaways were reported in the state of California. Often times, those runaways are linked to older suspects who help lure them away from their homes.
“They’re pedophiles and they are predators. They groom these relationships and they manipulate young children,” said Lt. Griffin.
Police say this case should serve as a warning to parents to constantly be aware of what their children and teens are up to and ask those hard questions.
“Don’t be squeamish,” said Lt. Griffin. “Get in your kids’ business, especially at this high risk age of 15 to 18, when they think they are invincible and can make their own decision,” he added.