On average, there are 90,000 people who are missing at any given time in the United States, according to Todd Matthews from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Of these, about one-third are teens.
Teen abductions are usually high-profile cases that can garner national (and even international) attention, and sometimes with the help of law enforcement and media coverage, these teens can be reunited with their families. These are five teens who were abducted and later escaped.
The case of Elizabeth Smart took over the nation in 2002. The 14-year-old was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her parents and authorities tried desperately to track her down. Nine months later, she was rescued by authorities as a captive of Brian David Mitchell, a homeless street preacher, and his wife, Wanda Ileen Barzee. She says that she endured sexual assault, abuse and fatigue at their hands.
"Every time I thought I hit rock bottom, somehow these people would find something new, something worse," she said to U.S. News. "Every single time. And I had to shut down my heart because it hurt so bad that I wouldn't have been able to survive."
She was spotted by an officer nine months later on March 12, 2003, and was able to communicate who she was. The couple was convicted of kidnapping.
Since then, Smart has become an outspoken advocate for victims of abuse.
What began as an alleged relationship with a teacher turned into a kidnapping that crossed state lines. Earlier this year, 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and her former teacher, 51-year-old Tad Cummins, fled her hometown in Tennessee.
Cummins was reprimanded from his job at a high school after being accused of kissing Thomas on school property. On March 13, the teen disappeared. Authorities found love notes between the two, and friends and family accused the teacher of "grooming" her. After 38 days, the couple was found in California. Authorities said that Thomas was not physically harmed, but she had undergone psychological trauma.
Tanya Kach was just 14 when she was reported missing in February 1996. She was taken by 48-year-old Thomas Hose, a security guard at Cornell Intermediate School in McKeesport, Pennsylvania where she was an eighth grader.
She had confided she had a crush on him, and he offered to take her in when she wanted to run away from home. But she ended up living in captivity for 10 years, kept as a sex slave and never allowed to leave his house for several of those years. When she was 18, her captor let her go outside with a new identity. That's when she confided in a store owner that she was being held captive, and he reported the incident.
The case of a missing cheerleader started with a gruesome murder. In summer 2013, two bodies were discovered — mother Christina Anderson and her 8-year-old son Ethan — in a Southern California home. Police started a national manhunt for the family's 16-year-old, Hannah Anderson, along with the owner of the home, family friend James DiMaggio. Friends of the teen revealed that the 40-year-old DiMaggio had a “crush” on her and that “creeped” Hannah out. They found emails from DiMaggio that indicated he wanted to make the teen fall in love with him.
A group of horseback riders in the “River of No Return” wilderness area of Idaho came across a man and a teenage girl who did not look like they belonged there. They called authorities who searched the area extensively. They saw Hannah flailing her arms from aerial surveillance. Authorities eventually shot and killed DiMaggio and rescued the teen.
Fifteen-year-old Jasmine Block escaped her captors by literally swimming away from them. The Minnesota teen went missing from her family's home in August of this year. Authorities say 32-year-old Thomas Barker lured her from home by asking for help with his vehicle. He then drove her to his home, restrained her with zip ties and then "repeatedly assaulted her" for weeks, along with two other men.
Her case was featured in Dateline's "Missing in America" series days after she disappeared, but it was the teen who saved herself.
When the men left Jasmine alone for the first time to get lunch, she escaped. She knocked on doors of nearby homes and swam across part of a lake to a home where she eventually found help, ending her 29-day ordeal.
[Photos: Getty Images, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Facebook]
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