By DAMIAN MANN
A 14-year-old girl disappeared from the Bear Creek Skatepark Saturday afternoon, setting off a frantic search by her mother and friends.
Andrea Carrero, whose daughter Starla disappeared around 5 p.m. Saturday, said she doesn’t think her daughter is a runaway because she left her purse and skateboard behind.
“I hope the police don’t have the wrong idea about this,” the mother of five said. “It needs to be taken seriously.”
Medford police are treating the situation as a runaway call, though the circumstances are somewhat different than most runaways.
Sgt. D.J. Graham said, “That is a little strange that her purse and skateboard were left.”
Medford police spent Saturday night on the lookout for Starla, notifying local homeless shelters in case she might be spotted.
Detectives also have been notified and will follow up on any leads, Graham said. As of Sunday night, Starla hadn’t been found.
“We treat every runaway call like it’s serious,” he said. “We don’t know what happened to her.”
Graham said the mother indicated Starla had run away previously, and some eyewitnesses at the skatepark noticed the girl leaving with a young man.
Carrero acknowledges that her daughter has had behavioral issues recently, but said she has never left home for any prolonged period.
“She’s kind of unpredictable a little bit, but she’s never taken off like this,” she said.
Carrero said Starla takes her purse everywhere she goes, so she was alarmed it was left behind.
Starla went to the park with her brother Nick. At one point, she gave her brother a couple of dollars to buy her an energy drink at a nearby market.
Carrero said other skaters at the park noticed Starla talking to some boys who hadn’t been seen there before.
When Nick returned to the park, his sister was gone, Carrero said. She said she checked with Starla’s father, who said he hadn’t seen her.
Carrero said Starla has lived with her since she was a baby. About two years ago, Carrero separated from her husband, and her daughter insisted she wanted to live with her father in Portland.
“She tried it for six weeks but got in with the wrong crowd,” Carrero said.
Her daughter was doing fairly well living back in Medford and was being homeschooled.
Carrero said she confiscated her daughter’s cellphone a month ago because she was texting in the middle of the night. “I wish I hadn’t taken the phone away,” she said. “Police could track her if she was carrying the phone.”
On Sunday, Carrero and some friends were distributing fliers near the skatepark. She urges anyone with any information to call 541-227-1166.
Carol Jensen, a friend of Carrero, said Starla was particularly attached to the purse, which was a gift that her mother gave her at Christmas.
Jensen said Carrero spent most of the day Sunday at the park, looking for her daughter and talking to people.
“She’s trying really hard not to cry,” Jensen said. “She was trying to be strong.”
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.