09 25 2016
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Friends of Yashawnee Vaughn gathered last week at the Northeast Precinct to try and find the missing teen.

Multnomah County Search and Rescue today launched an ongoing effort to find the remains of Yashawnee Vaughn, 14, at Rocky Butte Park in Northeast Portland.

Police suspect the teen has been dead since March 19, the last time friends or family had any contact with her.

Investigators announced on March 31 that they had arrested 16-year-old Parrish Bennette in connection with her murder. He will be arraigned today at 4:30 p.m. The Oregonian has reported that DNA evidence links Bennette to the alleged murder.

A national expert told The Skanner News Thursday that this case represents the worst possible outcome in the situation of a missing teenager wrongly suspected of running away.

According to witnesses, Vaughn had met up with Bennette at a Taco Bell on 82nd Avenue prior to her disappearance. She was supposed to meet with her cousin, Shandrea Farve, later that evening, but never showed up. Since that night, she hadn't answered her phone or updated Facebook, where she actively posted, said family members.

A candlelight vigil for Vaughn is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 2 at Powell Park, SE 26th Avenue at Powell Boulevard.

Police declined to say what information led them to believe that Vaughn's remains might be in the area of Rocky Butte Park, a large, meandering natural area that is largely hidden from view. Located next to City Christian School and Church, the park is surrounded on one side by large rock cliffs and on one side by freeway.

The search team is deploying dogs to aid in their search and they are looking for any clue that will yield them a lead in the case, according to Portland Police Spokesperson Lt. Kelly Sheffer.
 

The Three-Hour Window

In the first week of the investigation, family members accused the police of not taking the case seriously enough, treating the girl as a runaway in trouble with the law.

Sheffer said this week detectives had no meaningful evidence of foul play at the time and were following what leads they had. It wasn't until Sunday, March 27, that police say they obtained enough evidence for a search warrant, leading to the only arrest in the case. Sheffer says that, to her knowledge, no other suspects are being sought.

According to Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are two extremes in the case of a missing teenager that is suspected of running away. He said that lacking evidence of force, police can often mistake an abducted teenager for a runaway -- a not uncommon occurrence due to the overwhelmingly large number of teenage runaways in America.

On one hand, the teenager could have left home willfully and is safe. On the other hand, the teenager could be in the custody of a dangerous person -- in those instances, he said, statistics say the victim is usually dead within three hours.

"These cases are tough for police," he said. "But law enforcement needs to respond immediately."

He said the Center for Missing and Exploited Children successfully campaigned in 1990 and again in 2006 to force police departments by law to take a report of a missing teen and enter their information into the FBI's national database. Before this, it was common for police to presume that missing teens had run away -- enforcing a 24 to 48 hour waiting period.

Allen said this was partly due to pragmatism – the vast majority of missing teens are, in fact, runaways that return home within as little as a day to a week.

But when a teen has been abducted, "time is the enemy."

Related Stories
Teen Emotions Run High On Social Networking Sites After Police Say Yashawnee Vaughn Murdered
 
Police Arrest 16-Year-Old in Yashawnee Vaughn's Murder
 
Police Now Consider Yashawnee Vaughn to Be 'Missing'
 
Family, Friends Searching for 14-year-old Black Female Missing Since March 19

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