Tip Raises False Hope

Jamie Scott Lytle/ North County Times

Police searching for a missing 14-year-old girl were sure this was the tip they were waiting for: A teenage girl in Humboldt County identified herself as Amber and matched the description of missing Amber Dubois -- and she told people she was from Escondido, Dubois' home town.

Surely this had to be the girl, missing since Feb. 13, right?

“Talk about your coincidences,” Escondido police Lt. Bob Benton told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We thought for sure it was her."

It wasn't. The Amber in Humboldt County, found by detectives in August, was actually a 17-year-old runaway from  Escondido Lakes, Wash., according to the Union-Tribune. Police are still searching for Amber Dubois.

"That's been the toughest part in the emotional roller coaster," Benton said. "Getting what we believe are very credible tips and that Amber would be coming home, to the realization that it's not her.”

Dubois was last seen just after 7 a.m. Friday, February 13 about a block from Escondido High. The girl's parents said she was especially excited to get to school to exchange Valentine's Day gifts with friends. She also couldn't wait to pay for her baby lamb through the school's Future Farmer's of America program.

The teen's cell phone was activated for a few seconds the Saturday after she was last seen but according to her parents, hasn't been used since. Investigators announced the results of a computer forensics search of the teenager's computer, saying nothing on the computer offered up any clues as to the girl's whereabouts.

Volunteers launched a door-to-door search the weekend after Amber's disappearance. In the weeks that followed, family and friends have held candlelight vigils and organized search parties to cover areas of Escondido and parts of the North County.

Even the television program "America's Most Wanted" has profiled the case. The family told producers of the show that Amber sent four texts to her grandmother before leaving the house that morning for the roughly mile long walk to school. Amber was last seen by two family friends only about 300 yards from the school's gate.

Amber’s family says Amber was a model student who never talked about running away and they believe she was abducted.

The teenager's parents have criticized how Escondido Police investigators have handled the case.

Dubois' mother, Carrie McGonigle, wrote a letter to Escondido's Police Chief, asking him to bring in an outside task force.  She also said Amber's case needs national attention.  "I feel like it should be all over the media, I feel like everyone should be picking up the story and it should be all over the nation," McGonigle said. 

At an August prayer vigil at Escondido High School, Amber's father Moe Dubois said again that the family feels police had, "dropped the ball," with he and ex-wife McGonigle citing several alleged delays that may have hurt Amber's chances of being found, according to the North County Times.

Among their concerns was one tip received Aug. 24 reporting seeing Amber at a business. Police were made aware of the tip and found that the business had a surveillance video but McGonigle said detectives never tried to get the tape, and after almost two weeks, the business erased it, according to the paper.

Other outside agencies have been helping Escondido Police including the F.B.I. and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Escondido police spokesperson Lt. Bob Benton told the North County Times that Escondido detectives were open to allowing a person hired by the family to look at their investigative files, but other agencies involved in the investigation would also have to approve.

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