Missing Oregon teen may have been spotted in Florida
(DailyTidings.com) ASHLAND, Oregon – Police say they’ve received information that missing teenager Hannah Thomas-Garner may be in Florida with members of the so-called Rainbow Family.
In a statement posted on the city’s website Friday, Ashland Police Department officials said several witnesses had come forward with reports of possibly seeing Thomas-Garner, 17, at a “Gathering” of the loosely knit counterculture group over the past week. According to police, a girl matching Thomas-Garner’s description gave people several different names, one of which was Hannah and the other a nickname by which her Ashland friends know her. Police say they’re trying to obtain surveillance video from several stores the girl went to.
Members of the Rainbow Family, officially known as the Rainbow Family of Living Light, are heavily concentrated in the Pacific Northwest. The group’s 2015 Gathering in Florida started Feb. 6 at Ocala National Forest and was scheduled to end Friday.
Thomas-Garner has been missing since the early hours of Nov. 30, when she was last seen at a party off Dead Indian Memorial Road.
Her car was discovered later that day abandoned in a shopping center parking lot in Mt. Shasta City, Calif., its windshield smashed in with a rock. Thomas-Garner’s cellphone was also found in the car with its SIM card removed.
Ashland police say they believe Thomas-Garner had planned to run away along with another Ashland girl, Sylvia Davis, 15, a theory that’s been fiercely contested by Thomas-Garner’s family. Davis was later found safe in Petrolia, Calif., by Humboldt County sheriff’s deputies.
In the same statement, Ashland police defended their handling of the investigation in response to a Thursday broadcast by a local TV news station regarding blood found in Thomas-Garner’s car that previously had been identified as dirt. The car, a 2012 Ford Focus, is being held in a salvage yard in Siskiyou County, Calif.
Thomas-Garner’s father, Jeff Garner, said a private investigator working for the family had taken swabs from the car that tested positive for blood. Now, Garner said, the swabs have to be sent for genetic testing to determine whether it’s his daughter’s.
“The vehicle was originally processed by the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, which, unlike APD, has a full-time crime scene technician,” the police department’s statement says. “If there is blood in the car, she (the technician) missed it.” Ashland police say the private investigator’s tests were done without their knowledge, although Garner maintains that the investigator did contact APD.
Police say that if the blood is Thomas-Garner’s, they don’t believe it’s indicative of any serious injury, but rather consistent with minor cuts from broken glass. Thomas-Garner’s family members asked Ashland police if they would pay for further testing, but APD declined, saying it’s not in taxpayers’ best interests, according to the APD statement.
Garner said the lab estimated it could take several weeks to obtain the results of the genetic tests.