NM Amber Alerts Cancelled, But Missing Teen Mystery Remains

The location of all 9 teens police had said were missing have been confirmed.

ByABC News
October 13, 2013, 5:32 PM

Oct. 13, 2013— -- New Mexico authorities cancelled the Amber Alerts for the last five teens they had been looking for after not finding them at a camp for troubled youth.

The New Mexico State Police issued a statement this evening saying all of the nine who had been the subject of the Amber Alert issued Friday had been accounted for.

State police had issued the alert after going to the Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program near Hillsboro to execute a search warrant and finding the nine teens were not there. The ranch's owner, Scott Chandler, was also missing, police said.

However, the case was complicated when the attorney for the ranch, Pete Domenici Jr., released a statement that the boys had been "on a previously scheduled activity away from the ranch for several days. They are safe and have already been picked up by their parents, or their parents are en route to pick them up."

The Amber Alerts for four of the teens were cancelled Saturday when police located each of them with one or more of their parents.

On Saturday, Domenici sent an email to ABCNews.com reiterating that all the teenagers were safe with their families.

However, Henry Varela, a spokesman for the state Children, Youth and Families Department, said the police must visually verify the children's well-being before cancelling the Amber Alert.

"The key fact of it all is being able to physically confirm the whereabouts of the kids," he told The Associated Press.

Varela said the parents of the five other teens had been in contact with the police and were "making every effort to locate these kids."

New Mexico state police and social services executed the search warrant at Tierra Blanca as part of an investigation of allegations of abuse at the ranch.

According to ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV, state investigators are looking into allegations that teenage boys were beaten and forced to wear leg shackles and handcuffs for minor infractions of ranch rules. Chandler denied all the charges Tuesday in a press conference.

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Chandler also filed suit on Tuesday against the state, charging that the Children Youth and Families Department officials illegally interviewed students and threatened parents with abuse charges.

"[Children Youth and Families Department] comes in and decides to conduct an investigation in a way that was very upsetting," Chandler said at the press conference. "We had asked for sensitivity."

In spite of Domenici's statement that the teens were on a trip, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said the state was taking their disappearance very seriously.

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"All resources are being put into this right now, we have to locate them," Martinez said. "When you suddenly show up to the place and everybody is gone, it's a huge concern to us."

Yolanda Deines, head of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, said the state wanted to talk to teens as soon as they are located for the investigation and to ensure their wellbeing.

"We want to be able to interview each of the children to make a determination about how they were treated while they were at the ranch. We need to make sure that we get a full medical exam for the children," Deines said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.