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Group continues to press search for missing Ashland girl

As a dozen backers of the BringHannahHome group launched a poster campaign Friday in front of Noble Coffee in Ashland, even as Ashland Police reaffirmed their conviction that the disappearance of Hannah Thomas- Garner Nov. 30 was a runaway.

“You won’t see the word ‘runaway’ on these posters,” said Susanne Severeid, who is helping plaster the posters all over Jackson and Siskiyou Counties. “We want to look at other scenarios than runaway. That term is becoming less appropriate. They have to stop trotting out the word ‘runaway’ and process the forensic evidence from her car.” 

Moriah Davis, the mother of Sylvia Davis, who planned to run away with Thomas-Garner, was present at the poster gathering, and said, “I’m talking to a lot of teens and also drug dealers and my belief is Hannah met with foul play. A girl like that is going to contact her siblings here and in Texas.” 

Davis confirmed that her daughter did plan to flee — and that Thomas-Garner, 17, asked to accompany her and two young men, but was told no.

“I believe Hannah went to that party (on Dead Indian Memorial Road the night of Nov. 29) to find someone to go with and that she or the person she was with drove the car to Mt. Shasta,” said Davis. “I believe she was the one who took the SimCard out of her phone.”

Davis said she has no substantial clues beyond what police know. Thomas-Garner's cell phone was in the trashed car but missing the card.

Ashland High School counselor Amy Kennedy, a volunteer with the group, said “there’s too many suspicious pieces of evidence around her. The fact she’s a teenage girl says there’s no way she can remain hidden without someone else hiding or keeping her. I don’t believe she chose to hide.” 

It’s hard for teen girls not to have their personal things — clothes, mascara, phone and such — Kennedy added. “It’s been so long with no reaching out to the family and friends who love her. I ran away as a teen — and friends knew where I was and I missed them a lot.”

However, Ashland Police stood by their call, based on considerable evidence, that it’s a case of runaway.

“We’re chasing down rumors that she’s been in contact with people she knew in Ashland,” said Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness. “We talked to the person who identified her, the one who gave her a ride (from Mt. Shasta to Dunsmuir, Calif.) and he said she seemed healthy — and he seemed credible.” (Jan. 20: This paragraph has been corrected to say police are investigating rumors Thomas-Garner has been in contact with people she knew in Ashland, rather than that there actually had been contact.)

In interviews with friends, Holderness added, “We’ve received a massive amount of information that she told them she was running away and in fact did run away.”

A search by Jackson County Sheriff's deputies of the party site around milepost 13 on Dead Indian Memorial Road turned up no evidence, said Ashland Police Deputy Chief of Operations Warren Hensman.

A consultation three weeks ago with the FBI, including a review of evidence, left agents “on the same page, in agreement with our assessment” that the girl ran away, Hensman said. “We are still actively trying to find Hannah, though.” 

Hensman said he is now consulting with his detectives about the “interview with at least one individual ... where we received possible leads to her whereabouts.” 

He said police have received no eyewitness sightings, however. 

Among the forensics evidence APD retrieved is DNA from the girl’s car. Fingerprints, he adds, are “very difficult” to get from a car. 

Donna Blazinski, a volunteer with the group, said the evidence of the girl’s bashed-in car convinces her it’s not a case of runaway — that and the fact that runaway girls take plenty of clothing and money.

“She’s smart and would have lots of personal things,” said Blazinski.

Group member Sherri Tygret said, “I have two daughters. If it were one of them out there, I would just die. I think she met with foul play.” 

Member Vanessa Houk said, “I’m very concerned. Calling her a runaway makes it more dangerous for her because it diminishes resources in the search." (Jan. 25: This paragraph has been changed to correct the spelling of Houk.)

The group’s Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/bringhannahhomesoon

Email Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.