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The search for a runaway and the joy of reunion

By Tania Mashburn | Posted - Nov 11th, 2013 @ 10:35pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Each year, hundreds of Utah families struggle with children who run away from home. The majority of these runaways are teenagers who are having problems at home or at school.

What these kids don't realize is the streets can be a dangerous place.

Two West Valley families experienced firsthand the emotional toll it can take when a child goes missing.

The search

On Oct. 28th, Melissa Brink canvassed Granger High School with posters of her 14-year-old son, Johnathen Luckey, and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Tatiana Walker.

"Johnny and Tati, they're in ninth grade. They've been missing now for six days. Have you seen these guys at all?" she asked students on campus.

Johnny and Tatiana left for school one morning and never came home. Neither of their mothers thinks it was planned.

"She took her school binder with her," said Shay Hansen, Tatiana's mom. "It was an ‘I love you. I'll see you after school.'"

"They took absolutely nothing with them," Brink said. "If this was planned, they would have at least taken clothes, their cellphone chargers, something."

Brink and Hansen said the teens were in trouble for skipping classes at school, and they were possibly being bullied as well.

It seemed they were two kids trying to put their problems in the past. But what they are really leaving behind are two very worried families begging for their children to come home.

"My daughter did nothing but cry yesterday for her sister," Hansen said. "I won't stop until I find her."

"I haven't slept in four days. I haven't eaten in three days," Brink said.

"Son, I will never stop looking for you, ever." she said. "Until the day I die, I will never stop looking for you."

The reunion

This story does have a happy ending, but it wasn't easy getting there for either side.

Johnny and Tatiana were tracked down in Garland by a private investigator who volunteers with the Center for Search and Investigations.

The teens said while they were gone, they saw their pictures popping up on Facebook.

"I just kept seeing: ‘Missing: Johnathen Luckey and Tatiana Walker.' It just kept going over and over," Luckey said. "All my friends, all my family (were) sharing it."

Both teens now say it was a bad idea to run away.

"It was just a stupid choice," Johnathen said. "I was always paranoid. I always thought I was going to look over my shoulder and there would be a cop right there, and he would take me in."

Tatiana wasn't happy either.

"(I was) just hoping that no one would touch me, no one would try to do anything; that I wouldn't get hurt, that my family was OK, that they were OK with me being there," she said. "And just thinking maybe I should go back, maybe they need my help with something, maybe they're going to get hurt while I'm gone."

What they didn't realize was that they were the ones hurting their families.

"I should have talked to somebody that I could trust instead of taking off and trying to get away from it all," Tatiana said.

Johnathen's advice: "It's not worth it. It feels good being back home. Wish I never left."



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