Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Thursday afternoon that juvenile authorities will look into the case involving the two children who disappeared Wednesday night from their homes south of St. Clair.
The two children — 13-year-old Erica Linsey and 11-year-old Scottie Warner — were found unharmed Thursday morning about 12 hours after they disappeared. A massive search was conducted by law enforcement agencies and other emergency personnel in the Piney Park area, located a few miles south of St. Clair off of Highway K.
A command center originally was established on White Road in that development as the search got under way overnight Wednesday.
“After locating the children this morning Franklin County detectives conducted interviews with the children and the parents,” Toelke said Thursday. “The juveniles stated that they went into the woods because of a disagreement with a sister of the female and other emotional issues. They had considered being gone for a few days. ...
“The case will be turned over to juvenile authorities for review.”
Toelke said that Warner, was located unharmed at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
The boy then led searchers to where he had left Linsey, but she was not at that location. Searchers found her a short time later hiding under the porch of the boy’s home. At first she refused to come out, the sheriff said.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Pelton confirmed to The Missourian at the scene on Thursday morning that both Warner and Linsey were fine. Neither required transport to a hospital.
The preliminary investigation revealed that Linsey had argued with her sister the night before and had left with Warner for that reason.
The two were last seen about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday.
After the boy was found, he stated that he left the girl in a field by the nearby Meramec River and walked toward his residence where he was located, Toelke said. He returned to the field to show investigators where he last saw the female but she was no longer there.
The sheriff said that while speaking with Warner, authorities found Linsey under the porch. The boy said he thought she may have followed him toward the residence when he left the field then fled to the porch when she saw him with law enforcement.
Linsey said that she and Warner had been at the riverbank at one point and had observed searchers.
Several agencies took part in the search, including the St. Clair Fire Protection District, Eureka fire and search teams, St. Charles and St. Louis County aircraft, Missouri Highway Patrol, several K-9 search and rescue teams and the sheriff’s office.
“I would like to thank those agencies for great cooperation and a successful group effort,” Toelke said.
Toelke said the drama started to unfold at about 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday, the last time the children were seen that day.
The sheriff said the children, “who apparently are good buddies,” were outside playing together at that time when the mother of one of the children left to get some ice cream. He said a short time later, the teenage girl went into the house and asked her sister if their mother was home yet. The sister said no, and Linsey went back out to play.
It was at that time they disappeared.
The parents contacted law enforcement, which then contacted fire and search teams. St. Clair Fire Protection District Interim Chief Mike Kelley said his department was dispatched to the scene at about 1 a.m. to assist in the search.
Authorities conducted a door-to-door search in darkness early Thursday. St. Clair fire personnel put a rescue boat into the nearby Meramec River and searched its banks and nearby cabins.
A new search started at daybreak on Thursday and continued until Warner was spotted.
The area is surrounded by dense woods and rough terrain.
A temporary command post was established at the scene where Toelke was coordinating search areas. The post was moved to St. Clair Fire Protection District House 3 on Highway K in Piney Park.
Toelke said neighbors and friends were questioned. He said initial indications were that the children used a cellphone to access the Internet at about 11:58 p.m. Wednesday from the area where they were reported missing. Toelke said, however, that the phone then was turned off or the battery died.