Runaway interviews continue | AspenTimes.com

Runaway interviews continue

Naomi Havlen

Investigators continued to talk Tuesday with a 16-year-old girl who was attacked Saturday night on Independence Pass.Police are seeking more details about the day she accepted a ride from two men who beat her with a golf club and left her to die alongside Highway 82.The teenager continues to improve from head injuries at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, said Joe DiSalvo, head of investigations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Her parents have been contacted.”She’s getting better and we’re talking to her on a regular basis,” he said.Citing post-traumatic stress disorder, DiSalvo said victims often recover memories of an incident as time passes.”It’s a fact that over time, the memory of the incident develops,” he said. “She’s helping – she’s doing the best she can.”The teenager had been away from her home in Bakersfield, Calif., for two or three weeks when she arrived in Aspen. She told police that she asked two men for a ride and they offered to drive her to a bus stop.The girl was driven up Independence Pass, dragged out of the vehicle by her hair and beaten with a golf club.The men remained at large yesterday, but police have received numerous tips about the suspects and the vehicle they were in.Deputy Bruce Benjamin, juvenile investigator with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said the girl had been registered as missing with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.”Lots of agencies minimize the impact of investigating runaway juvenile cases, but it’s so important that they be looked into right away,” Benjamin said.He said there are numerous risks for underage runaways, including violent crimes and sexual assaults.Benjamin said young runaways sometimes come to the Aspen area, probably because of its familiarity through the Winter X Games or various media coverage, and see it as an exciting place.”We’ve recovered quite a few runaways from out of state,” he said.Police usually deal with runaways by taking them into custody until their parents can pick them up.There are countless reasons why children run away, among them conflict with parents, a desire to explore or to meet someone they met over the Internet. Benjamin said 16 is the median age for teenage runaways.Police would not comment on the circumstances surrounding the victim’s choice to leave home.Investigators did not release new information yesterday about the attackers.The girl described the assailants as two men in their 20s. They were driving a white, older model, four-door SUV, possibly a Chevrolet Blazer with black pinstripes. The vehicle has tinted windows and an elaborate stereo system with a large subwoofer in the rear.One suspect is a white man with a tattoo on his left arm, possibly of a red snake. He may also have a tattoo on his right shoulder. He was described as 5-feet-8 with dark hair.The other man may be Hispanic and have a tattoo on his right shoulder that says either “3” or “SUR.” The webbing between his right thumb and forefinger was described as having three dots. The suspect is bald and about 5-feet-6 with a medium build.Anyone who was near Wagner Park around 7 p.m. Saturday or Independence Pass soon after and may have seen a vehicle or men matching the descriptions should contact the sheriff’s office at 920-5300.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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