Woman honored for her part in rescuing children
CARSON CITY – State worker Sarah Koerner, whose phone call to police on Jan. 19 likely ended years of imprisonment and starvation for a brother and sister, will be commended by Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong during last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
“If it hadn’t been for Sarah, one of two things could have happened – the family would have probably gone out and found the girl, or she could have died out there. It was obvious she was not going home and it was the middle of winter. She was already in horrible shape. Staying out in the elements would have put her at great risk,” Furlong said.
Koerner said she was returning to work from lunch when she spotted the tiny girl, barely tall enough to reach the handles, pushing a shopping cart on East Second Street. The child didn’t look well and seemed too young to be out on her own, Koerner said.
As other cars stopped to let the girl cross the street, or drove around her as she walked in the middle of the road, Koerner grabbed her cell phone and called police. She was the only one to call.
“I didn’t hesitate. I just felt something was wrong. I was just concerned,” Koerner said.
Her call led deputies to the girl, who told them she was 16 years old and had just escaped from a bathroom where she and her younger brother had allegedly been held captive for years. She weighed only 41 pounds when officers found her.
Deputies located her 31-pound, 11-year-old brother at the apartment. The girl’s grandmother, mother and stepfather were arrested and are being held on suspicion of felony child abuse and false imprisonment. The children are in stable condition at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.
“I was talking to my co-worker today, and I told her I didn’t do anything,” Koerner said Monday. “It was (the girl.) She was the spunky little thing that decided she was going to get out that day.”
Monday, as Detective Dena Lacy was investigating the case, she received a package at the Carson City Sheriff’s Department from the executive producer of the CBS soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.”
The package contained memorabilia and photographs of the popular daytime show.
Lacy said she was eager to deliver the gift to the girl. It was one of the programs she’d listen to through the bathroom door.
“The Young and the Restless” Associate Producer Josh O’Connell said he learned of the children last week when a staff member’s friend pointed out a Nevada Appeal article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune which mentioned the girl listened to the program. On Friday copies of the article were put into the cast members’ in-boxes. O’Connell took it upon himself to send out the package Friday.
“I probably jumped the gun a little, but I wanted to get something out right away,” he said Monday from Los Angeles. “Even talking to one of the cast members, they were very deeply affected by (the story). If there’s anything that we can do to help them we are trying on our end here.”
Donations have been rolling in from across the United States.
About $14,000 have been donated to the Second Chance Fund set up for the children by the Carson City Deputy’s Association, said organizer Deputy Dan Ochenschlager.
“Fourteen thousand is a great amount, but we’d like to get a lot more for them,” he said. “These kids are going to need a lot of money as they go through their healing process. There are going to be needs that come up that no one’s even considered and we’re hoping that this money can be used to help them in those situations.”
Ochenschlager said he was not working when the girl and her brother were found, but he did work the graveyard shift later that night.
When he and four other deputies heard about the children, they decided at 1 a.m. to go to the hospital and check on them. There they found the children wide awake and happy for the company.
“We were all very touched. When we saw how much was being done, as far as people dropping stuff off for the kids, we got together and we said it would be nice to open an account. We figured we’d have a big outpouring of help just because of the way Carson City is. We knew people would want to donate,” he said.
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