Police: Missing Ariz. teen spoke of running away

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Johnathan Croom By Jennifer Thomas Johnathan Croom By Jennifer Thomas

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- An Arizona teenager assumed to be missing in the woods of Southern Oregon talked with his parents about the book "Into the Wild" and told a friend he wanted to run away.

The Douglas County sheriff's office searched Monday for 18-year-old Johnathan Croom. His SUV was found Wednesday in Riddle, a town of 1,200 people just off the state's main north-south thoroughfare, Interstate 5.

His mother has said he was traveling alone and on his way back from Seattle. Croom was due in Arizona Aug. 17 to start college in Mesa.

Douglas County sheriff's spokesman Dwes Hutson said text messages between Croom and a friend indicated Croom wanted to run away.

Hutson said Croom talked to his parents about Christopher McCandless, whose disappearance in the Alaska wilderness was documented in the book "Into the Wild."

"I think we have kind of a combination there," Hutson said. "He talked with his parents about `Into the Wild,' and in text messages we've looked at, he does specifically talk about running away, kind of just running away from his life."

Earlier this year, a 19-year-old from Oklahoma disappeared after talking to his parents about the same book and setting out to test himself against the Oregon wilderness.

Dustin Self's truck was found in April on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. The last search for Self was in the spring, after snow melted, but it yielded no hints to his location.

The scene near Croom's truck doesn't indicate suspicious circumstances, like signs of a struggle or evidence of a break-in, Hutson said. Rather, searchers are treating the disappearance as one in which Croom walked away from his vehicle voluntarily.

Calls to Croom's mother, Monica, were not returned Monday morning.

"I certainly hope this kid is ok," Hutson said. "Maybe he just had himself a little adventure, and hopefully he's ok."

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