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.