Missing siblings found, police say kids trying to run away

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Nearly 24 hours after a brother and two sisters went missing from their southwest Topeka home they were found.

Their parents and police have been searching for the siblings since Wednesday night.

Michelle, Seth, and Stephanie Witten were found in the woods along the Shunga Trail around 7:20 Thursday night.

A citizen who had seen news stories of their disappearance witnessed them playing in the creek and called police.

The children were checked out by first responders and are now being questioned by detectives.

Captain Jerry Stanley says the 10, 12, and 13 year olds were okay but hungry.

The trio confirmed police suspicions; they had in fact planned to run away.

“I can tell you that they went prepared,” Capt. Stanley told Kansas First News. “They had overnight gear they had sleeping gear they had some food and some water with them.”

Their parents hadn’t been gone long. William Witten was at the gym, and his wife Kathy was with her mom.

“When we came home the door was wide open,” William said. “They were all gone. All three of them were gone.”

The couple was up for hours after their three children disappeared Wednesday night. Ten-year-old Michelle, 12-year-old Seth, and 13-year-old Stephanie left together. Thursday afternoon their mother their mother was imagining the worst.

“I’m thinking about this heat, and the fact that they have no money and it doesn’t look like they’ve taken any clothes and I don’t know if they found shelter,” Kathy Witten said.

Wednesday night panic set in and the search began.

“We looked at every friend’s house we could every park every library, we went to the church prayer room,” William explained.

Police also searched every possible place in the area, including Gage Park.

The Wittens were especially worried because Michelle, the youngest of the three, had recently been diagnosed with a form of autism.

Also, the siblings are adopted and suffer from radical attachment disorder which could have contributed to their running away.

Despite the happy ending, officers realize it could have turned out very differently.

“We realize we were approaching that critical 24 hour point and just glad we were able to get that tip from that alert citizen that led to us getting them into custody safely,” Capt. Stanley said.

The parents say Stephanie, the oldest, has run away once before, falsely claiming that she had been kidnapped.

In a statement, Captain Jerry Stanley of the Topeka Police Department said: “We appreciate all the phone calls and tips we received throughout the day.”


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