2 teen girls found dead after running away from Mesa group home, police say
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Two teen girls who ran away from a Mesa group home were found dead in a water retention basin near Superstitions Springs Center on Saturday night. Police say they don’t know how the pair died but they say foul play is suspected.
Mesa police say a man was walking his dog near Southern Avenue and Superstition Springs Boulevard around 6 p.m. Saturday when he saw what he thought was a mannequin in the water. Officers responded and confirmed it was a body, then found a second body about 10 feet away. They have since been identified as 17-year-old Sitlalli Avelar and 15-year-old Kamryn Meyers. Police say that based on evidence, they had been in the water for some time before being discovered. The Medical Examiner’s Office will determine a cause of death, which could take weeks.
Avelar and Meyers were listed as runaways from a nearby group home in Mesa and reported missing on Jan. 7, two weeks before their bodies were found. That group home is one of several operated by Powerhouse Youth Facility Inc., which has been operating for 12 years. Per online records, the group home in Mesa has only been open since last October.
Wednesday afternoon, an attorney for Powerhouse responded to Arizona’s Family regarding the investigation. Brad Miller says Avelar and Meyers had a history of leaving group homes and were overheard talking about leaving Powerhouse on Jan. 6. He says staff tried to convince them to stay, but they left the next day. He says staff then followed protocols and notified agencies, including Mesa police and the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS). Staff reportedly met with Mesa police again on Jan. 10 when they still hadn’t returned. Miller added that Powerhouse is a state-licensed facility and that by law, cannot force children to stay.
Cathy Catalfo has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and was shocked to hear the news. “There’s so much life ahead of them; they have so much opportunity and growth and learning,” she said. “It’s disappointing, you expect more.” Other neighbors say the group home used to serve as an assisted living facility. However, lately, Catalfo says there’s been more police activity around the house. “There has been a lot of traffic in general, a lot of police officers coming in the last couple of weeks,” she said. “I guess the first thing that comes to my mind is who enticed you to leave? What made you leave a safe environment?”
Anyone with information on the investigation is asked to call the Mesa police nonemergency line at (480) 644-2211.
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