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Friday
Sep062013

Search for Missing Michigan Star-Crossed Teens Leaves Families Baffled

Isabella County Sheriff's Department(MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich.) -- The families of two Michigan teenagers who took off together continue to ask why the two youngsters wanted to leave town.

Jayden Thomas, 13, of Clare, and Braxton Wood, 14, of Mount Pleasant, have been missing since Aug. 26, and have not been heard from, according to their families. Braxton apparently took his family's Ford Explorer during the early morning hours and picked up Jayden before taking off.

"Ultimately, we have to question why did Braxton want to leave," Jayden's stepfather, Art Drinkwine, told ABCNews.com. "He came to my house and asked my daughter to leave. She didn't ask him to come pick her up. If she wanted to leave, she would have stolen the car herself.

"I think if we could just answer that question, we would come to know a lot more," he said. "I wish that I could have helped him if he felt like his only choice was to leave."

Today, Jayden's family drove to St. Johns, Mich., to hand out fliers in the neighborhood where members of Braxton's family live, Drinkwine said.

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

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

"They didn't want to hang out with friends. Their focus was each other, and that's pretty intense for 14-year-olds," Braxton's mother, Sarah Kiley, told ABC News.

Hours before they vanished, Jayden's mother, Kelly Drinkwine, said the relationship had become too serious, and that she no longer supported it.

"We're trying anything," Art Drinkwine said. "We don't know where they're at. We're just guessing, hoping and praying."

"I'm really surprised that she's gone this long," Jayden's grandmother, Vicky Drinkwine, told ABCNews.com. "As far as I know, she was looking forward to going into the ninth grade."

Vicky Drinkwine said Jayden's 5-year-old half brother "really misses" his sister.

"He's not sure what's going on, but he knows something is going on," she said. "He knows that she went with Braxton, and he's very angry at Braxton for taking her."

Police said the couple were believed to be driving a black 2005 Ford Explorer with Michigan license plate number BCQ4820. Jayden and Braxton could be headed to a friend's home in Florida, the Isabella County Sheriff's Department said in a statement last week.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's department and a private investigator are following up on news of possible sightings of the missing couple that continue to come in.

Michael Cook, a private investigator at the Center for Search and Investigations, who is assisting in the hunt for the pair, said he was working with local law enforcement in Milwaukee after receiving a call from a woman who said she thought she had seen the two runaways.

"She did an accurate, very detailed description of [Jayden and Braxton] without being prompted about their appearance," Cook told ABCNews.com.

But Cook said the Milwaukee tip was problematic, because there were no reported sightings of the SUV Braxton was driving.

Cook said he hadn't ruled out the fact that the two could still be in Michigan and receiving help from either friends or other young people.

While Kiley told ABC News her son had about $62 when he left, Cook said Braxton took some possessions with him that he could perhaps sell for more money.

"He took an Xbox 360, the controllers, numerous games and a tablet of some sort," he said. "It's been a theory that it was premeditated."

Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said this was the longest voluntary runaway situation he could remember.

Anyone with information on the missing young teens' whereabouts should contact either the Isabella County Sheriff's Department at (989) 772-5911 or Cook at (616) 466-4274.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio