Missing girl found unharmed

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

By Steve Moyer

Nevada Herald

The 12-year-old Nevada girl who has been missing since July 14, Heather Benenhaley, has been found. She's in a detention facility in Ventura, Calif. the man she ran away to be with -- her uncle, Chris Benenhaley --is in jail in Nevada.

Heather disappeared from a local truck stop, and was reportedly seen climbing into the cab of a tractor-trailer.

After that, family members hadn't heard from her at all, and their quest to find her was intense, with efforts ranging from flyers to individual searching, to efforts of law enforcement officers and getting the word out through a variety of efforts.

The effort paid off, and relatives are relieved almost beyond words to know she'd been found unharmed.

"She's okay, she's not here yet, she's in California in a detention center," Charlotte Baxter, her grandmother who has custody, said. "They're going to fly her back Monday, there's just no way we can drive out there to get her."

Benenhaley was found after her uncle returned to Nevada Friday morning to pick up a car he had left here.

"Chris came back to Nevada on the bus," Baxter said. "When he got off the bus driver called the police and they found him in a friend's front yard."

Baxter said Heather told how she had found rides with several different truck drivers before catching up to her uncle.

"She got rides with six truckers before she met up with Chris in El Paso," Baxter said. "They drove on to California from there."

The family has experienced other difficulties since Heather ran away, and the experience has taken a toll on the grandfather, Raymond Baxter.

"Raymond has some health problems and this has been a strain on him," Baxter said. "I hope that now this is coming to an end he will start feeling better."

Baxter said she had talked to Heather and that she seemed to be in good spirits.

"She seemed happy when I talked to her a little bit ago," Baxter said. "She didn't say anything about being upset."

Baxter is glad that the police were able to apprehend Benenhaley when he came into town and thanked everyone who helped by publicizing Heather's disappearance.

"If he hadn't come back for his car we might not have found Heather yet," Baxter said. "All the publicity and the posters probably helped keep people aware of her. We're grateful to everyone who helped."

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