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Missing Child

July 29, 1994

About 4:15 p.m. July 17, the dread of all parents occurred to us. Our 15-year-old daughter disappeared from the house. She has Down syndrome.

After a frantic two-hour search, we notified the polilece. Sgt. Stephaney Payne of the Los Angeles Police Department, West Valley Division, set up a command post in our kitchen, immediately mobilizing police and media. As it grew dark, our anxiety fast became panic. Our daughter had never been away from home alone at night. Her communication skills are limited.

By nightfall, the police were out in mass, and, by midnight, there were over 90 police and reserves, joined by neighbors and friends, combing the neighborhood. Capt. Harlan Ward arrived to oversee the operation. All worked as though they were searching for their own children.

After a harrowing 24 hours, our daughter, who was with a transient man, was found because of the alertness of Bridget Barnes Gonzales, a guard at a production office in the Valley. Gonzales, recognizing her from a newscast, shrewdly separated her from the man and led her to safety inside the building.

Detective Bud Mehringer's announcement that our daughter was safe was met by tears and cheers from everyone.

We want to thank our friends and neighbors, the incomparable and indefatigable Sgt. Payne, Capt. Ward, Lt. Tony Alba, Detectives Mary Hones, Bob Peloquin and all the other officers of the West Valley Division. Never have we been exposed to such compassion and professionalism.


Woodland Hills

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