Missing teen among hundreds of Thornton runaways each year -- but her story ends happily

In the 24 hours or so, fliers have popped up on or near Westword's offices related to a search for Bryanna Barragan, a fourteen year old Thornton girl who disappeared Thanksgiving week. But Barragan wasn't abducted. Rather, she ran away from home, like hundreds of others in Thornton every year. But at least this story has a happy ending.

Here's a look at the flier, featured on the recently launched Help Find Missing Bryanna Barragan Facebook page:

The flier doesn't mention the circumstances of Barragan's disappearance, but Thornton Police Department public-information officer Matt Barnes told us this morning that "she's listed as a runaway. She voluntarily ran away with her boyfriend sometime between the 23rd and the 24th -- packed up a suitcase with clothes and crawled out a window of her home and left with her boyfriend, who's also an active runaway. They left for California, and he allegedly stole a car to get there."

The vehicle was described as an older model Lexus sedan, two-tone black in color. "It was stolen from a relative," Barnes said.

After Barragan's disappearance, he continued, "it's my understanding that the family had contact with her. Two other juveniles who went to California with them have since returned home, and those two stayed."

However, Barragan and her boyfriend remained at large, prompting the creation of a Facebook page overseen by Barragan's mother and aunt. But their efforts didn't receive media coverage of the sort that's been generated by searches for missing teens such as Dylan Redwine and Kara Nichols -- probably because of the all-too-common circumstances. As Barnes notes, "You could write a lot of stories about runaways. We have hundreds of runaways each year -- several hundred reported each year, on average."

The majority of these runaways return home on their own or are located by authorities investigating other matters. "Quite a few times, law enforcement comes into contact with them for a variety of reasons," Barnes says. "They may be out after curfew or at the wrong location, and people might have called them in as suspicious -- and when we check them out, we learn they ran away."

At this writing, we don't know if that's what happened in Barragan's case. But earlier this afternoon, the following note popped up on the aforementioned Facebook page: "We couldn't be any more happy than we are right now to say that BRY WAS FOUND SAFE AND IS COMING HOME!!! LOVE YOU PRINCESS AND CANT WAIT TO SEE YOU!! ♥♥♥♥"

Of course, not every case concludes with hearts and exclamation points. While the Barragan link on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website's Colorado page is no longer active, more than three dozen listings remain. And plenty of those on the roster ran away from home.

More from our News archive: "Kara Nichols search: Is model's photo on Las Vegas escort website false lead?"

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts