PARSONS, Kan. — Parsons Police are searching for two 12-year-old runaways they said fled state foster care, stole a truck, and then crashed it during their getaway.
On Sunday, February 26th, three 12-year-old girls were reported as runaways from the 1600 block of Chess Ave. in Parsons – two of which were in state foster care. The parents of the third girl reported the incident to police.
A tip the next morning, Monday February 27th, led officers with the Parsons Police Department to an abandoned residence not far from where the girls were last seen. All three were located and brought to the Labette County Juvenile Intake. The two from foster care were turned over to the state contract foster care provider, TFI Family Services. The third was placed out of home, PPD said.
Around 2:30 pm Monday, TFI reported that the two girls placed in its care ran away – again. Officers canvassed downtown Parsons for answers and interviewed citizens. One witness claimed to have seen the duo fleeing from the area 20 minutes prior to TFI’s report.
A few hours later, PPD responded to NAPA Auto Parts about a stolen truck which they believe was connected to the two runaways. Kansas Highway patrol notified Parsons about a collision involving that stolen vehicle along US 400 Hwy at mile marker 419, just east of Parsons.
Witnesses of the vehicle crash on Highway 400 said they saw two young girls running from the crash into a nearby field. Officers searched the area but have been unable to locate the girls.
The two girls originally sought as just runaways are now being listed as juvenile offenders for felony theft of a motor vehicle. Authorities ask that anyone with information on their whereabouts to contact PPD at 421-7060 or call the Tip Line at 421-7057 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parsons officers working the case say they are concerned for the safety of the runaways, but they are also concerned that innocent bystanders became victims in this case.
Parsons Police Deputy Chief Dennis Dodd said, “this incident is indicative of a broken juvenile system. In the State’s effort to not criminalize juveniles for their decisions we have essentially established the game of catch and release before adulthood.:
“The juvenile system in Kansas has long needed restructuring,” Dodd says. “This incident and the tragic death of a juvenile that wrecked on U.S. 400 should be an indication that services beyond outsourcing to contractors who may be underpaid and under trained. Foster centers or crisis care centers are in need in the state.”