Emergency crews searching for girl near Camp Wartburg

Pictured is an overhead scene of searchers near Camp Wartburg on Monday afternoon. (photo courtesy FOX 2 News)

Police and fire department personnel were searching through the night for a 13-year-old Mt. Vernon girl who ran away shortly after being dropped off at Camp Wartburg, located at 5705 LRC Road south of Waterloo, at about 11 a.m. Monday.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department was joined by Illinois State Police, Monroe County EMS and Monroe County EMA, along with the Waterloo, Maeystown, Valmeyer, Hecker and Columbia fire departments in the search, which began about 3 p.m.ย Police requested the assistance of a helicopter from the St. Louis County Police Department to aid in the search, as well as multiple K-9 search dogs. An ISP plane was also brought in late Monday night to search using thermal imaging. A search and rescue team from Eureka, Mo., also provided assistance.

The missing teen, described as a black female, stands about 5-feet-4 and weighs about 150 pounds. She was last seen wearing a green-yellow plaid shirt with a bow and jeans, police said. Her name is JaTe’a Lejla Frank.

Pictured is the teen who is believed to have run away shortly after being dropped off at Camp Wartburg on Monday. Her name is JaTe’a Frank. (MCSD photo)

The girl, who was not currently registered to attend Camp Wartburg but had participated in a camp there just weeks prior, was apparently transported by taxi from her Mt. Vernon home to the camp without her parents’ knowledge. The taxi driver told police the girl had three bags with her and “was not acting normal” during the drive and paid the cab fare of more than $100 in cash. She was dropped off about 11 a.m. near the maintenance shed of the camp — located across the road from the main camp office — but never reported to the office.

It is believed that the missing teen ran away from the camp immediately after drop-off, officials said, leaving her bags behind. Two Camp Wartburg staffers saw her get out of the taxi from across the road. The taxi driver pulled over near the staffers to tell them he had just dropped off the girl, and by the time staffers looked back over in that direction, she was gone.

“She did exit the taxi,” Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing told the Republic-Times.

Camp Wartburg executive director Bob Polansky stressed that normal camp activities had not been disrupted and the search area involves mostly wooded areas surrounding the camp property. The missing teen’s parents were on scene at Camp Wartburg late Monday afternoon and are cooperating with search efforts.

“All of our campers are fine and safe,” Polansky said.

Anyone with information on the missing teen’s whereabouts is asked to call 939-8651.

Check back for updates as they become available.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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