I write mostly about social media and other geekery that I find interesting. Sometimes I feel compelled to write about other things that move me. Back in December I was told about a missing teenage girl from my area named Stephanie Cudd and between the proximity to the holidays and the cries for help by people that knew her for her safe return, I thought I’d help out. I thought my experience in social media would help spread the word quickly and help give a place for people to organize an effort to find this missing girl.
I set up a Facebook page and we were able to create a small group of moderators to manage the page. We started with 6-10 people and the Facebook page grew to over 3,ooo (that number is a guestimate since the page has been taken down). So many people from as far away as Australia shared links, missing person posters and posted comments in support of finding a girl that was thought to be lured away from her family by a creepy guy with bad intentions. People contacted the Polly Klass Foundation and other missing childrens groups to get the message out that the girl was missing and her family was worried. Support was given from the high school Stephanie attended, local papers and so many complete strangers that I was amazed that so many people that had NO connection to this girl were willing to take time out of their lives to do what they could, even if it was just offer words of support.
One of the biggest voices in this process was the mother of Stephanie’s boyfriend. She commented daily on the Facebook page and sent emails around to me and other moderators of the page to thank us for helping. She even helped organize a candle light vigil at a local park with the hope that the media would pick up the story. Then there was a light of hope, she posted a comment on the page about a phone call to her son (the boyfriend) from Stephanie saying she was somewhere in Vegas. Everyone was happy to hear Stephanie was alive and this brought in a new wave of support from people wanting to help bring her home safe. This lasted 2 months until Stephanie was found. Then the truth started coming to light.
Thankfully we have a great resource in Concord. An inspirational blog called Claycord.com who is a master of hyperlocal blogging that keeps an entire community up to date on all of the news that matters to the people. Most news that never makes it to mainstream or is buried by more sensational events. Claycord is a breath of fresh air to the city.
I was told to read Claycord today and see an update to the Stephanie Cudd Story. Turns out that Stephanie was safe all along. No creepy guy lured her away to unknown places, she was never in Vegas. Stephanie Cudd was hiding out with her boyfriend and his mom the entire time. The jokes on all of us.
The Contra Costa Sheriff wants to press charges against this lady for charges including contributing to the delinquency of a minor and providing false information to a peace officer. If this is true, I tend to agree. What is wrong with people?
I am glad Stephanie is safe, I don’t know the details around why she felt she had to ‘runaway’ and it really doesn’t matter. Kids do strange things, there is probably more to the story and she may have had to leave home, someday she may realize that people went to alot of effort to bring her home safe even if she was all along. I feel ridiculous and almost embarrassed that I fell into this manipulated effort to rally resources and support to find a girl that was hiding out at her boyfriends house for months. It’s not clear if Stephanie was hiding there for the entire duration but the Sheriff seems to think so and I’ll defer to their greater insight to the case.
I got introduced to many good people during this process and I’d like to believe that the buck stops with the mom and that none of the other people I was in contact with were also ‘in on it’. I guess I may never know. I’ve been around the world and been around bad people but in 99% of the cases, I knew who the enemy was or at least didn’t put my trust in people and give them the chance to burn me. I could be jaded from my past experiences but I tend believe that most people are good and when they ask for help that they need it. This is just a case where I was wrong in trusting someone.
I wanted to make this post to close the chapter on this story. Stephanie is safe.
Disclaimer: This is a new story and more facts will be released in due time. I’m only writing this as a reaction to news being published by other blogs and local news.