A 15-year-old Bel Air girl missing since last week was discovered safe at a friend’s residence near her home Tuesday afternoon, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office said.
Ashley Michelle Testerman was located by deputies shortly after 12 p.m. Tuesday at a friend’s house in Abingdon a short distance from her home, police said. She will be returned to her parents after a medical evaluation. Deputies used a variety of investigative techniques to locate Testerman.
Testerman had been reported missing from her home on the 400 block of Rambler Road in Bel Air by her mother and step father on Wednesday, July 20 at 8:24 p.m. Her disapperance became public after friends and family sought help in locating her via social media, and was released to news sources on Monday.
(UPDATE 7/27): In response to reader comments, The Dagger sought additional clarification from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office on the procedures used to determine the publicity brought to this case.
According to the agency, Testerman was reported as a missing person by her parents on Wednesday, July 20. However, the Sheriff’s Office did not deem the case “critical” per policy, which requires one or more “critical factors” to be present. The department’s definition of a missing child and the critical factors are:
MISSING CHILD – A person who is:
1. Under the age of 18 years; and
2. The subject of a Missing Persons Report filed with a law enforcement agency and whose whereabouts is unknown. (Family Law Article, Sec. 9-401)
CRITICAL FACTORS – Any factors or unusual circumstances that lead the investigating deputy to believe that a missing person may be in danger. A missing person is considered critically missing by the existence of one or more critical factors, which include:
1. A missing child who is believed to be out of the zone of safety for his/her age and developmental stage.
2. A missing person who is drug dependent and the dependency is potentially life threatening.
3. The missing person has been missing for more than 24 hours before being reported to the police.
4. Based on available information it is believed that a missing child is in the company of adults who would endanger his/her welfare.
5. The absence is inconsistent with the missing person’s established patterns of behavior and the deviation cannot be readily explained.
6. Any circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that a missing child should be considered “at risk.”
7. A child whose residence is in the proximity of a known child sex offender.
In critical cases, the Sheriff’s Office representatives said they will alert local media and seek their help in finding a missing individual. According to Sheriff’s Office sources, on any given weekend as many as four children may be reported missing as runaways, but generally return home safely after a short period, and their absence does not draw media attention.
In this case, The Dagger was only alerted to Testerman’s absence after family and family friends began reaching out on Facebook to seek our help in locating her. At that time, the Sheriff’s Office was contacted and provided details on the case within a few hours.
Pay Attention says
Just curiuos, why didn’t the parents of Ashley’s friend question the extended visit? The lax parenting of this “so-called friend” makes it difficult for Ashley’s parents to instill self-discipline, respect, cooperation, and high standards from their child. If Ashley’s fantasy of escaping punishment and consequences is indulged by outside influences everytime things don’t go her way, she is going to continue her unruly behavior. Adults should know …. never take a childs word at face value … call the parent for input. If you don’t want to get involved, tell the kid to go home and not to come back until their parents calls to say they have permission to stay. Give the child a dose of reality, don’t harbor them.
Maybe you have more info on this case than I do (the above three paragraphs), but where does it say she was staying with a minor?
While I agree with the point of your comment, it sure seems like people around here love to throw stones based on vague information.
Vague information and cockamamie hyperbole that only proves people that read the Dagger also watch Law & Order SVU and NCIS. If the people that post here with their half-wit innuendos are an example of the final product of the public education system this county is on the road to disaster.
Take Action says
Just maybe her step daddy was abusive giving her reason to hide.
When we assume the possibilities of reality are endless
A runaway doesn’t constitute “child missing” when a parent admits that her child doesn’t want to be found! THAT IS the reason the media wasn’t reporting her as “missing”! Great parenting sounds like it when your child doesn’t respect you enough to call you to say I’m alive and all this attention was due to the child’s acquaintances posting comments on social networking sites!
Exactly! No reason to waste resources on a kid that doesn’t want to listen to mommy and daddy. Police have better things to do.
She’s a child. Children make stupid mistakes and decisions. Parents do the best they can. It’s a scary, scary world out there. Only the three of them can work through their relationship with all of its complications.
Why was this even news to begin with? She was missing for only four hours and the police actually took a report? She had a history of running away and clearly has some mental issues that need to be addressed. Wish her the best, but it pisses me off when special attention is given because a pretty girl from suburbia snuck out of her room.
The police took the report, but they didn’t classify her as missing for 4/5 days, which then makes it news. The police handled it exactly right.
Aaron Cahall says
That’s not completely accurate. According to sources at the Sheriff’s Office, they took a missing persons report on the girl on Wednesday, July 20, but decided a full-on media effort was not necessary at that time as her case did not meet several criteria to be considered “Critical.” We the media only heard about it when her family and friends began reaching out through social media. I’ve updated the story above to make this more clear.