Missing girls located cold, but safe, after leaving home Monday night in sub-freezing weather conditions

Dave Marner
Managing Editor

Two juvenile females who walked away from their family’s residence Monday night were located cold — but safe — more than an hour later and 4.1 miles south of their home, walking in sub-freezing weather along Highway 19, south of Michel Road.

“They reportedly had a bit of a disagreement with a grandparent and left that house to walk to their house next door,” said Gasconade County Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Wilbanks.

Sheriff’s deputies, Owensville Fire Department volunteers and Owensville Area Ambulance District personnel were dispatched to the 2800 block of Highway 19, north of the Lake Northwoods community, at 9:43 p.m. for a search-and-rescue operation.

Ambulance personnel came across the two near the 3100 block of Highway 19, south of Michel Road approaching the entrance to a power substation road. Wilbanks said deputies David Mabe and Josh Woodall reported the two girls, 11 and 12-years-old, had apparently attempted to avoid detection as emergency responders were approaching by stepping off the shoulder of the roadway and walking into a field.

“The girls were located, cold, but healthy,” said Wilbanks. “They took off without permission, they told our deputies. They said they left the house to walk to Owensville to do a ‘24-hour Walmart Challenge.’”

Dangerously cold weather conditions

“The children were reportedly under-dressed with regard to the rapidly dropping frigid temperature and wind,” according to Sheriff John Romanus. “Working in coordination with area first responders, a search for the children was quickly initiated. A short time later the children were located a few miles away by an EMS crew assisting with the search. Although cold, the children were found in otherwise good health. Parents of the children arrived and took custody in the area where the children were located.”

The temperature at the time was 15 degrees and a steady breeze produced a wind-chill index of at least minus-5 degrees. Wilbanks, chief deputy, said deputies reported the two were wearing light-weight jackets, not heavy insulated coats.

“They were not dressed appropriately for the weather, the way it was described,” said Wilbanks.

Romanus said it was reported the children were walking to Walmart for the purpose of a “24 Hour Challenge” they heard about at school. Wilbanks said he believes the “challenge” was to remain inside a large, box-store type business, for 24 hours without being asked to leave.