Two missing Ashland teens planned to run away, police say
A missing Ashland teenager apparently planned to run away with a friend and has been spotted hitchhiking in Northern California, police say.
Ashland police Deputy Chief Corey Falls said 17-year-old Hannah Thomas-Garner was seen hitchhiking in the Dunsmuir area by witnesses on Monday, then a girl matching her description was seen at a Redding convenience store Tuesday morning.
A second Ashland girl, Sylvia Davis, 15, was reported missing Monday night.
Police said interviews with Ashland High School students revealed Thomas-Garner and two other girls originally decided to run away. One of the other girls backed out and stayed behind.
"The indications that we're getting from the kids that we're interviewing at school was that this is something that had been planned," Falls said.
A department news release says a "credible" witness reported to police that he had picked Thomas-Garner up at about 10 a.m. Monday in the Mount Shasta area on Interstate 5 while heading south. The witness then gave her a ride to a Dunsmuir coffee shop.
"Hannah was reported to be healthy, in good spirits and traveling south to the Fresno area or somewhere warm," the police release said.
The second witness spotted Thomas-Garner hitchhiking on Interstate 5 in the Dunsmuir area at about 11 a.m. Monday.
A Tuesday morning tip reported that Thomas-Garner was seen at Win River Mini-Mart in Redding Calif., at about 7 a.m. Redding police got the surveillance video and Thomas-Garner's stepfather confirmed to investigators that it appeared to be her, Ashland police reported.
"We're trying to follow up on those tips right now," Falls said, adding a detective has been sent to California to continue investigating.
Ashland police Detective Sgt. Warren Hensman said Tuesday was a busy day for police up and down the I-5 corridor as agencies in two states worked together to track the girls.
Davis reportedly arranged to have someone police described as "an unidentified male" pick her up in Ashland.
It's not known whether Thomas-Garner and Davis planned to travel together or left separately or whether they agreed to meet up later.
"We're trying to track all that down right now," Falls said.
Before being reported missing, Thomas-Garner was last spotted in the early-morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 30. Police said she had attended a party held in an open space near a gravel pit, located off Dead Indian Memorial Road close to mile marker 13. Police later found her blue 2012 Ford Focus abandoned in Mt. Shasta City, Calif.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department recovered the car. Department spokeswoman Jayme Lynch said police still have the car in their possession and that it has been processed for fingerprints and DNA evidence. Lynch declined to comment on the area the car was found or its condition. She said county search and rescue volunteers will be back in the area doing a second canvassing for anything they may have missed.
There are no previous reports of Thomas-Garner running away, police have said.
Falls said the case has already drawn interest from several media outlets outside Oregon, including Nancy Grace and CBS News.
"We know people are really paying attention to this," he said.
Thomas-Garner is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, 137 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. Davis is 5 feet 9 inches tall, 105 pounds. She has hazel eyes and recently dyed her dreadlocks black, although she is blond in a photo released Tuesday.
Anyone with additional information about the girls' whereabouts is asked to call Ashland police at 541-482-5211.