A distraught mother in southeastern Texas is trying to locate her 15-year-old daughter who disappeared under mysterious circumstances more than a month ago.
"I can't even describe how I am feeling. I miss her so much. I just want my baby to come home," Sandra West told The Huffington Post.
West's daughter, Sharon West, has not been seen since July 30. The teen had been staying with family friends in Fannett, an unincorporated town about an hour northeast of Houston. Her living arrangements there were temporary while her mom attempted to secure a job.
Sharon West's friend, Austin Meaux, last saw her at the residence in the 11100 Block of Gaulding Road at about 2:00 a.m. He said she was awake and still there when the rest of the family went to sleep.
According to Chuck Foreman, a private investigator based out of Austin who has volunteered to assist in the case, West sent a text message to a friend at about 5:20 a.m., saying she was at the Seabreeze Youth Club's soccer field, a couple of miles from where she was staying.
Roughly 40 minutes later, West used her cellphone to contact another friend and again indicated she was at the soccer field. According to police the area is a popular hangout area for kids. West did not contact any other friends after that and her cellphone died shortly thereafter.
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What happened to Sharon West after those calls remains a mystery.
"I don't believe she ran away," Foreman told The Huffington Post, noting West did not take any clothing or personal belongings -- other than her cellphone -- with her.
"This is out of character for her," Sandra West added. "She would have contacted us."
Foreman said the soccer field is situated on a somewhat busy road and he fears the teen may have been abducted.
"I suspect foul play and I'm afraid something bad happened to her," he said.
Without many clues a frustrated sheriff's office has struck only dead ends in its search for the teen. They have conducted land and aerial searches, but thus far nothing of interest has been found.
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On Tuesday, Foreman and West's family members organized a community search near the soccer field.
"We had seven fire departments out there and almost 100 citizens," Foreman said. "It was a huge search."
Searchers did find a cellphone during the search but police say it is not the phone West was carrying when she disappeared.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the lead agency on the case, is working with a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They have been making home visits to area sex offenders and have reclassified the case from "missing" to "missing endangered."
Sandra West said she is grateful for all the support but she is upset that the sheriff's department did not issue an Amber Alert when her daughter was first reported missing.
"They said her case didn't meet the criteria," West said.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office did not return calls for comment from The Huffington Post.
According to The Beaumont Enterprise, the sheriff's office said cases must meet specific guidelines for an alert to be issued. Those guidelines, according to the Enterprise, are:
- Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place;
- The child is at risk of serious injury or death;
- There is sufficient descriptive information of child, captor or captor’s vehicle;
- The child must be 17 years old or younger.
"It's not right," Foreman said. "She has been missing weeks now and we have nothing. If [the authorities] had taken this more seriously from the start they might have found something."
Sandra West agreed.
"They have nothing. They haven't found anything. She's just vanished," West said.
Sharron West is described as a white female, 5'6" tall, 115 lbs., with deep red hair on top of her head and purple underneath. She has a mole below her left eye. Anyone with information is asked to contact Beaumont Crime Stoppers at 409-833-TIPS or the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 409-835-8411. A Facebook page, "Help Find Sharon West" has also been created.