Search for Neese goes on
Jan 14, 2013 (The Dominion Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Nearly all kids who run away from home are found within six months.
An overwhelming majority are located within a week.
If Skylar Neese ran away from home July 6 when she snuck out of her Star City bedroom window -- and her parents insist that is not the case -- she is among a slim minority of runaways.
She's been gone six months, plus a little more than a week.
The University High School honors student was last seen on a surveillance video leaving her home in a four-door sedan.
Police believe they know who Skylar left with -- juveniles who she knew. But that hasn't helped find her.
Skylar was initially considered to be a runaway because the surveillance video showed her leaving on her own accord. No one is sure what happened to her. Police have said they are not sure if she's alive or dead.
Her parents, Dave and Mary Neese, fully believe that Skylar intended to come back home the night she left. Why she didn't make it back to her bed that morning is still a mystery.
"There are things you know and that's your own daughter, or your son," Dave Neese said. "We both knew that day she went missing, we both knew she didn't run away.
"The whole time we were being told she ran away, she got a wild hair. But we knew she didn't run away. She had no reason to."
Skylar left with nothing more than the clothes on her back and a large purse. She didn't take her contact lenses -- she has trouble seeing without them -- her parents said. She didn't take her toothbrush, makeup or any toiletries. She hasn't used her cellphone and left its charger behind. She hasn't touched her bank account. A step stool she apparently used to help her get out of her first-floor bedroom window was still sitting outside and her window was left open a crack.
Her father is insistent -- Skylar intended to come home and sneak back into her room before her parents were the wiser.
A U.S. Department of Justice study states that in 1999 -- the most recent year statistics were available -- an estimated 1,682,900 kids were thought to have run away from home or were missing after their parents forced them from the home in the United States. A majority of the young people were 15 to 17 years old, the same age group as Skylar, and the summer was the most common disappearance time.
Seventy-seven percent of the kids (1,285,200) returned home or were found within one week. Nearly all of the kids (99.5 percent or 1,675,100) were found within six months.
The percentage of kids who had not been located by the time the study was published in 2002 was miniscule. Just 4,100 of more than 1.6 million.
John Bischoff, with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said they look at the evidence to see what is the most likely explanation for a teen's disappearance, but they don't make assumptions and they investigate the cases thoroughly.
"Each one is different, with a different story behind it," he said. "... We treat them all as if there is a child that could be in some sort of danger."
He said they've been actively communicating with Monongalia County law enforcement and with Skylar's family. The center has helped spread Skylar's missing poster throughout the country.
"Unfortunately, with all missing persons cases, we just don't know what's happened," he said. "The hope is that she's out there. We hope she gets home safely."
State Police Sgt. J.P. Branham said Friday that there was nothing new to report in the case, although they continue to investigate.
A lot can change in six months, but for Dave and Mary Neese, one thing has remained constant -- Skylar is still missing.
When Skylar disappeared it was just a couple days after the Fourth of July, the peak of the summer season. Now, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's have passed without her. Snow has blanketed the area and melted away.
"Christmas and New Year's was really bad," Neese said. "It's a definite struggle every day to make it seem like you have something like a normal life."
Skylar will turn 17 on Feb. 10. Neese fears that day will be crushing if she's not there to celebrate it with them.
Neese said the support he's gotten from people on the family's Facebook page has been amazing and he thanked state troopers for their efforts in the case.
He encouraged people to sign a petition a friend created online to bring about a law that would make sure that all missing teens' cases are treated the same from the get-go, regardless of whether it appears they may have run away.
State Delegate Charlene Marshall, D-W.Va., plans to introduce "Skylar's Law" in the state Legislature in February.
The petition, which can be found by searching "Skylar Neese" on causes.com, has been signed by more than 9,000 people.
TO GIVE AN anonymous tip in connection with the disappearance of Skylar Neese, go to wvcrime.com or mail a letter to West Virginia State Police, at 3453 Monongahela Blvd., Morgantown, WV 26505-3044. State police can also be reached by phone, at 304-285-3200. Updates from Skylar's family can be found on the Facebook page "TeamSkylar 2012."
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