PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The father of a 15-year-old girl who ran away from home on October 30 spoke out Tuesday, begging her to come home.
Annieka is believed to be with Zachary Petersen, 23, a wanted sex abuse suspect from Pasco, Washington. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Annieka and Petersen know each other.
Petersen’s truck was found in Forest Park on Monday along with Annieka’s backpack, but they are both still missing.
“I love you baby, where are you? Come home,” Annieka’s father, Rick Vaughn said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Vaughn said there was nothing about his daughter’s behavior in the days before she ran away to indicate anything was wrong, and he believes she is being manipulated.
“My gut tells me there’s some major manipulation and grooming going on,” he said. “There’s a lot beneath the surface that needs to be addressed and there’s a lot of support that needs to happen.”
Authorities have been searching the area near where the truck was found.
“So now the question is if they drove there, where did they go from here, how long did they stay in the area, when was that truck left?” Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jeff Talbot said. “And those are questions we need to piece together.”
Petersen went missing the same day as Annieka. Prior to his disappearance, Petersen called the crisis line in Washington. He’s believed to be suicidal and possibly in possession of a firearm. He is under investigation in a Benton County sex abuse case.
Annieka is described as 5-foot-9, 150 pounds with brown shoulder length hair and brown eyes. Petersen is described as 5-foot-10, 150 pounds with buzzed brown hair and brown eyes.
Monday night Portland police did a welfare check not far from where the truck was found after community members reporting hearing voices in a wooded area. They didn’t find anyone and couldn’t say whether the report was related to Petersen and Annieka.
It’s unknown how long that truck had been parked there.
Annieka does have a history of running away and moved to Aloha in mid-October to live with her aunt and uncle.
Family therapist Michael Buys told KOIN 6 News younger girls sometimes seek attention from older men in cases where at home, they don’t feel like they’re being heard.
“Often times with runaways, there’s an issue with control within the family,” Buys said. “And often times getting that attention helps them to feel like they’re either respected or more mature than they really are, that somebody is taking them seriously.”
He also said sometimes runaways start out disappearing for a short time or just missing curfew before running away.
“If you start to see those kinds of signs with your kids, slow it down, ask them, talk with them,” Buys said. “Get help from an outside source if you need to.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 503.629.0111. Anyone with specific information about the truck is asked to contact Detective Heidi Helwig via email.