Runaway girls are found, put in juvenile detention |

Runaway girls are found, put in juvenile detention

Sheila Gardner / The Record-Courier

Two teenage sisters were found safe in Winnemucca nine days after they ran away from their Gardnerville Ranchos home. But their odyssey isn’t over yet.

They are being held in the Douglas County juvenile detention center at Stateline pending a hearing Sept. 2.

Wearing county-issued burgundy polo shirts and khaki pants, the sisters appeared Tuesday before District Judge Michael Gibbons with their parents.

The girls ran away Aug. 16, accepting a ride with 40-year-old Jeffery Alan Palmer of Gardnerville, who was jailed in California on felony child abduction charges on $120,000 bail.

They were found in a Manteca motel early Aug. 18 with Palmer and 16-year-old Christopher Leyva of Manteca, whom the younger daughter had traveled to see. The sisters ran away again from a safe house where they were sent to await their parents. Leyva ran away from home a second time.

The three runaways were seen Aug. 19 at a California truck stop looking for rides.

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Their parents spent last week handing out fliers and looking for their children in Las Vegas.

The sisters and Leyva were found Monday sleeping behind a truck stop in Winnemucca by Carson Valley Christian center youth pastor Jeremy Malekos and his father, David, who headed for Humboldt County on a tip that the three had been seen in the area.

The mother said relief that her daughters were safe was tempered with the fear the girls would take off again. She asked Gibbons to keep them in detention pending next week’s hearing.

The older girl was charged with a probation violation.

“They treat it like a funny joke,” Juvenile Probation Officer Mike Torres said. “I was with them when they were reunited, and the girls didn’t even want to hug their parents. It’s important before they are released that we have a good plan to assure their safety.”

The girls disputed the claim that they didn’t take their behavior seriously.

“I think we both understand,” the oldest girl said. “We don’t think it’s a big joke.”

Gibbons found that the girls were a danger to themselves and ordered them held in detention pending next week’s hearing.

Chief Deputy Juvenile Probation Officer Vicky Sauer-Lamb said the teenagers had been interviewed by Douglas County authorities and Palmer may face local charges. She said a San Joaquin County detective was planning to travel to Douglas County to interview the girls.

Leyva was home with his family in Manteca.

The mother said her family did not know Palmer, and he did not have permission to take the girls or to associate with them. Apparently, she knew him and made the contact.

“I really don’t even have the energy now to be angry with or vindictive towards this man,” she said. “I have to trust the system to do its job with him.”

The mother it would be “humanly impossible” to thank all the people who helped locate the girls.

“We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts,” she said. “An enormous amount of work and prayer went into this from many people including, churches, law enforcement, friends, schools and family.

“We feel extremely blessed to live in Douglas County, in area that cares so much about our kids,” she said. “We have been a lot of places over the past nine days and, believe me, we have it good here.”