Missing Michigan Teen Runaways Found Safe in Chicago

Jayden Thomas and Braxton Wood had been living out of an SUV in Chicago.

ByABC News
September 8, 2013, 9:19 AM

Sept. 8, 2013— -- The missing Michigan teens who left town together nearly two weeks ago have been found safe in Chicago this morning, authorities said.

Jayden Thomas, 13, of Clare, and Braxton Wood, 14, of Mount Pleasant, were first reported missing since Aug. 26. Braxton apparently took his mother's black 2005 Ford Explorer during the early morning hours and picked up Jayden before taking off.

They were due to start their freshman year at different high schools last week, and their parents said the two even briefly broke up because of that.

Local law enforcement found the couple this morning in the back of the Ford Explorer in a parking lot adjacent to a Mobil gas station in Wrigleyville, a neighborhood in Chicago, Sgt. Tim Edeling of the Chicago Police Department 19th District told ABCNews.com.

The SUV's battery was dead and the couple had run out of gas.

Michael Cook, a private investigator at the Center for Search and Investigations who was assisting in the hunt for the pair, told ABCNews.com that someone from Braxton's hometown also notified him about seeing the couple in Chicago this morning.

The Mt. Pleasant native who was visiting Chicago called Cook about a possible sighting of Braxton, who was seen wearing a Central Michigan University sweatshirt, which is located in Mt. Pleasant. He then called the 19th District, and learned Jayden and Braxton had been found.

Teens' Journey From Michigan to Illinois

The teens drove directly from Michigan to the Wrigleyville area, and had been living in their car for nearly two weeks, "going to the local Starbucks and enjoying our lakefront," Edeling said. It was unclear how the teens supported themselves financially during that period.

Inside the SUV, Edeling found suitcases, indicating that Jayden and Braxton "probably had planned their escape."

Edeling said an anonymous caller phoned in after seeing Jayden and Braxton's picture on the news this morning as well as the Ford Explorer's plates, which had not been changed.

Edeling said that the pair left town because their parents wouldn't let them be together.

Both sets of parents said they'd become uneasy during the course of Jayden and Braxton's six-month relationship.

"I didn't want her to grow up too fast," Jayden's mother, Kelly Drinkwine, told ABC News. "I know that Braxton loved Jayden. I could tell by the way he looked at her, and it scared me to death."

"They wanted to spend a lot of time together," Braxton's mother, Sarah Kiley said. "To be that intense at 14, you encourage them to do other things as well."

While the couple were not happy they were found, Edeling said, Jayden seemed to be more relieved, telling him that she "could use a bath."

"They seem fine, health wise, and seem to be in good spirits," Sgt. Dennis Connelly said. "There is a chance we'll run to the hospital to have them checked out."

Both Jayden and Braxton's families are making the 4 1/2 hour drive from Michigan to pick their children up from the police station, Edeling said.