Four Iowa teenagers disappeared from their homes Saturday, after two of them allegedly began a romance over Xbox and planned an escape together.
Police believe Corey Sunderman, 16, and Jazlyn Visek, 15, had not yet met in person when they hatched plans to run away together with two of their friends. According to Sunderman’s mother, Crystal, the two teenagers, who hail from towns that are nearly 200 miles apart, met through the Xbox online gaming community.
"I don't let him have a Facebook account because I don't want him meeting people online," said Crystal. "I didn't realize they could do so much on Xbox."
Crystal said that her son and his friend Austin Boggs, 13, were supposed to be at her home in Atlantic, Iowa, Saturday night when they snuck out, supposedly to go skateboarding. Local police, who have recently begun enforcing a midnight curfew for all Atlantic residents below the age of 18, caught the two teenagers and returned them to Corey’s home.
Crystal said she then hid the boys’ shoes to prevent them from leaving again. "This is going to sound really stupid, but I took all the shoes downstairs and put them in a bag and took them up to my room, thinking if I had the boys' shoes, they couldn't go out and go skateboarding again," she said.
But the following morning, Tony Sunderman awoke for work and discovered his son was missing, along with his 1997 gold Jeep Cherokee. Sunderman reported that also missing were two pairs of boots that had been stored in the garage, Crystal’s laptop, and $400.
Hours after the two boys departed, Vizek and her friend Skie Floyd, 15, also a sophomore at Vinton-Shellsburg High School, were also reported missing from their homes. According to Randall Forsyth, Sheriff of Benton County, the four teenagers are believed to be traveling together in the missing Jeep Cherokee.
"We've had some information from other kids that this had been planned for several weeks," said Forsyth. "They didn't think they were going to go through with it."
"We've had a couple reported possible sightings and we just got a call from a lady in Kansas City who said yesterday afternoon she saw four kids and thought the one for sure matched the description," Forsyth added in an interview with to the Huffington Post.
"I know my daughter is scared right now," said Dusty Hiepler-Floyd, Skie’s mother, told KCRG News. "I'm sure she wants to come home. I just want them to know they're not in trouble."
"The most important thing of all is that wherever our kids are, whatever they're doing, if any one of them decides they've had enough, that this isn't as exciting as they thought, that they want to come home, as their parents we will do anything to get them home," added Crystal.
"We'll protect them as much as we can from any consequences," she said. "It's more important to get them home than worrying about what's going to happen next. That's the number one thing."