Miranda Gaddis was so upset with the attention focused on her friend Ashley Pond when the girl disappeared almost three months ago, she told her mother, "I'm gonna go … get kidnapped." To her mother's horror, that's what happened.
Michelle Duffey last saw her daughter Miranda on March 8, when she was eating breakfast in her bathrobe. According to Duffey, she reminded Miranda to lock the apartment door when she left for school, and then left for work. She has not seen Miranda since.
When Ashley disappeared, Miranda became angry with her friend for causing so much turmoil, Duffey said. The girl watched as sheriff's deputies on horseback combed the woods near their Oregon City, Ore., apartment complex, her mother said.
At the time, Duffey wasn't so sure that Ashley was a runaway. She recalled telling Miranda she could not walk alone to a friend's house. Duffey said Miranda would try to provoke her by saying, "I'm gonna go alone, and get kidnapped."
The FBI has made the case a priority. The agency brought in about 70 FBI agents and support staff last week to the working-class apartment complex tucked into a forested valley south of Portland.
Agents have brought in dogs to search the woods around the apartment complex, and stopped cars in the neighborhoods to hand out posters carrying the missing girls' pictures.
But hundreds of hours of police work have turned up no trace of the teens.
‘Good Progress,’ FBI Says
In each case, authorities first mulled the possibility the girls ran away. But the FBI, local authorities and relatives now believe all of the evidence points to a crime.
Miranda did her homework the evening before she vanished. She told her mother she was looking forward to a dance team competition the following day at Gardiner Middle School. She did not pack any clothes or any of her makeup.
The FBI announced Saturday that they have received more than 500 leads for Ashley and Miranda from its tip line, but so far, nothing has led them to the girls.
FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said Saturday that investigators are making "good progress" in following up on the leads that have come. She said agents have contacted a number of people both known and unknown to the missing girls.
Five experienced search dogs were used in the search Saturday, and the FBI said that there remains every reason to hope the girls are still alive.
The search for both girls escalated further Saturday night, when they were featured on the America's Most Wanted television program.
Both Ashley and Miranda lived in the same apartment complex, went to the same school, and danced on the same team, but the similarities do not end there.
Ashley and Miranda were both pretty girls, raised in single-mother homes. Dancing and shopping were two of their favorite activities.
Miranda was more outgoing than Ashley. She wore flared pants and pink T-shirts. She liked to sprinkle glitter on her face and arms during dance contests. Her belly button and tongue were pierced. The night before she disappeared, she had dyed her brown hair a lighter hue.
Ashley liked to practice her dance moves in private, but would perform karaoke at home for her family.
Both went missing while on their way to a school bus stop near the Newell Creek Village apartments, Ashley on Jan. 9, Miranda on March 8.
No Suspects Among Family Members
The mystery has unnerved other tenants in the complex.
At least six have moved out of the 125-unit complex, saying they fear for the safety of their children, said Russ Peterson, a manager with the company that owns the apartments.
Mike Morrow, the FBI's acting special agent in charge in Portland, says past cases show child abductors are usually male and often motivated by sex.
When the victims are under age 12, most often the attacker is an acquaintance or member of the victim's family, Morrow said. After that age, about half the kidnappings are carried out by acquaintances, half by strangers.
Authorities have ruled out family members as suspects in this case.
As the weeks went by after Ashley's disappearance, Miranda stopped scoffing at the idea her friend had been kidnapped, according to her mother.
"She was starting to believe [Ashley] had been kidnapped," Duffey said.
Miranda decided to help in the search in her own way.
She had been practicing for a benefit by the dance team to raise money for a reward for Ashley. Miranda planned a routine to the music of 'N Sync, Britney Spears and Lincoln Park, Duffey said.
The concert is scheduled for March 23 and will raise money for a reward for both girls.
ABC affiliate KATU contributed to this report.