Missing girl, 14, found hidden in closet; authorities uncover trapdoor in Calaveras County home
A weeklong search to find a missing 14-year-old in Calaveras County ended Friday when authorities discovered a trapdoor leading to a makeshift sleeping area under a home where the girl had gone to spend the night and found the teen hiding in a closet, sheriff’s officials said.
Three adults were arrested in connection with the Sacramento area incident, which was initially reported as a missing person’s case, authorities said.
Isaiah Haggard, 20, and his mother, Annie Pearl Abernathy, 41, both of West Point, were charged with felony child endangerment, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and providing false information to a peace officer, court records show. They were being held in lieu of $100,000 each, but their bail was lowered to $20,000 each, according to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.
Another West Point man, whom sheriff’s officials identified as Jose Tinocopureco, 34, was arrested on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and providing false information to a peace officer. He has since been released from custody, sheriff’s officials said.
Before the girl was reported missing by her family, she was given permission to spend a few nights at her friend’s West Point home, southeast of Sacramento, authorities said. When her grandmother arrived to pick the teen up on Oct. 22, the adults in charge told the woman she had already left. The girl’s family immediately called sheriff’s deputies, who came to the house to investigate, according to a news release.
Deputies interviewed Abernathy, Haggard and Tinocopureco, the latter of whom was a tenant in the house, Sgt. Greg Stark said.
“Occupants at the residence told deputies that [the girl] had left and was last observed walking down the driveway,” a sheriff’s release said.
The Times is not naming the girl to protect her privacy.
Detectives launched a broad investigation into the missing teen, interviewing friends and acquaintances, canvassing the area and searching through the girl’s cellphone records. Meanwhile, Stark said, the girl’s family members occasionally drove by the property where she had last been seen, leading the homeowners to ask for law enforcement patrols to protect them from “being harassed by local townspeople.”
“They were painting themselves as the victims when they were, in fact, victimizing,” he said.
Although detectives had already searched the house when the child was first reported missing, “new information” led them back to the property eight days later, according to a news release.
Detectives obtained a search warrant to secure the suspects’ electronic devices. “They believed there was some communication between the occupants and [the girl],” Stark said.
When sheriff’s deputies returned to the property Friday, Haggard and Abernathy met them in the front yard and insisted the girl was not there. Inside the house, deputies found a man who was not identified who had a warrant for an unrelated, minor crime and cited him, according to Stark, who added that there were also other children of Abernathy’s inside.
Officials found the missing girl hidden in a closet, crouching beside a crossbow, Stark said.
“Detectives located [the girl] deep within the corners of two adjoining closets as she was intentionally hiding amongst densely hanging clothes,” a news release said. “[She] was removed from the closet and found to be unharmed.”
The girl spoke with deputies and did not require immediate medical attention, Stark said. It was unclear why she was in the closet, but authorities said she was “intentionally hiding.”
“I don’t think it matters what she was doing,” Stark said. “The suspects in this case failed her at every turn. They could have gotten her help. ... They took advantage of a 14-year-old girl.”
The officers also found a trapdoor leading to a hiding spot on the dirt floor under the house, according to the news release, where they discovered the girl’s phone among some makeshift bedding.
“We’re not sure if she was sleeping there only [or] if she was there continually being concealed, but it’s pretty obvious that she was sleeping in a hole under a house,” Stark said.
Child Protective Services temporarily took custody of Abernathy’s other children after their mother was arrested until other family members could collect them, according to Stark.
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