By Debbie Bryce
For the Journal
There are several teenagers who have been reported missing in Eastern Idaho since late last year.
In nearly all the cases, local law enforcement did not notify the media or the public about the missing youths, and the Idaho State Journal only found out about them by visiting the Idaho State Police and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children websites.
The Journal checked those sites after receiving a fax from the center on Thursday night about a missing teenage boy who had not previously been reported to us.
Gary Lung Jr., 15, of Pocatello, was last seen on April 4, according to the information provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
He is described as being 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing about 157 pounds. He has brown eyes and blond hair that was recently dyed black.
In addition to Lung, there is one other teen from Pocatello whoâs currently missing. Also missing are a teen from Chubbuck, two teens from Idaho Falls, two teens from Franklin County and one teen from Bingham County.
Upon learning that several teens had been reported missing in our region in recent months, the Journal posted their information online Friday in hopes that they could be located.
One of the missing youths we wrote about Friday was Roger Ramirez, 15, of Idaho Falls.
Sadly, shortly after the Journal posted a story about Ramirez, we were notified by Idaho Falls police that his body had been recovered Friday afternoon from the Snake River in that city.
Idaho Falls Police Department spokeswoman Joelyn Hansen said Ramirez was reported missing on March 16 and his death has been ruled a suicide. An online fundraiser has been set up at www.gofundme.com/ruzc8jdt to help pay for his funeral.
Local law enforcement says the eight east Idaho teens currently reported as missing are considered to be runaways, and donât meet the criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert. Police said that unless theyâre seeking the publicâs help to find a missing teen or the missing teen is suspected of committing a crime, the media and the public are not notified. Local law enforcement does not believe any of the recent missing teen cases are in any way related.
According to the National Runaway Safeline, between 1.6 million and 2.8 million youths run away each year in the U.S.
Runaway teens are 10 percent less likely to graduate from high school, and 80 percent of runaway females report being sexually or physically abused.
The Runaway Safeline is available to teens who are considering running away from home. The organizationâs hotline, 800-RUNAWAY, accepts calls 24 hours per day.
Idaho State Police Sgt. Chris Bake said for an AMBER Alert to be broadcast, a child must be known by law enforcement officials to have been abducted and the abduction must have occurred within 12 hours of the initial activation of the AMBER Alert.
The child also must be under 17 years of age, and law enforcement must believe the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.
Bake said there must be enough descriptive information to believe that an AMBER Alert will assist in the recovery of the child.
No AMBER alerts were issued for any of the teens reported missing in east Idaho since December. In nearly every case, local law enforcement did not even issue a press release about the missing juveniles. Authorities do not even have photos of two of the eight juveniles from our region who are currently missing.
Hansen said if a child is believed to be a runaway, an attempt to locate is issued to the regionâs law enforcement agencies and the childâs information is entered into the National Crime Information Center database.
Once youths are declared to be runaways, police can take them into custody and return them to family members or book them into a detention center.
One of the two missing Idaho Falls youths is Devon Arias, 16. He was last seen on March 22. He is described as being 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing about 170 pounds.
Arias is listed as being Native American/Alaskan native and has black hair and brown eyes.
A second Idaho Falls youth, Kyra Lorraine LaFountain, is listed as missing by the state police, who are reporting that she was last seen on March 9. However, the 15-year-old has recently posted comments on her Facebook page.
Idaho Falls police said Saturday that they still consider LaFountain to be missing. She is described as being 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighing 125 pounds. She has brown hair and blue eyes and was last seen wearing a pink sweater, black leggings, white glasses and red earrings. She has scars on her left forearm and a tattoo on the same forearm with the words âTwo birds with mom in the middle.â
Crystal Douglas, founder of East Idaho Cold Cases, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about missing persons and cold cases in the region, said runaway children often remain listed as missing after they have returned home because family members do not update law enforcement.
Anyone with information about Arias or LaFountain can contact Idaho Falls police at 208-529-1200.
In Pocatello, another missing teen is Ismael A. Ramos Mendez who was last seen on Feb. 26.
Mendez, age 17, is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs about 170 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. The name âEsmerelda Ramosâ and a skeleton with its middle finger raised are tattooed on his chest and the word âpatienceâ is tattooed on his right forearm.
Anyone with information about Mendez should contact the Pocatello Police Department at 208-234-6100.
Desiree Silvia Otero, 16, of Chubbuck, is also missing. She was last seen on March 24 and is described as being 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighing about 120 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a sweater, blue jeans and black and pink Adidas sneakers.
Otero is known to wear a heart necklace, diamond studs and teal earrings. She also has a scar on her left cheek.
Anyone with information about Oteroâs whereabouts should call Chubbuck police at 208-237-7172.
Gage Burton, 17, was last seen in Preston on March 31. He is described as being 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 130 pounds.
Burton has brown hair and green eyes.
Law enforcement officials believe he could be in the Logan, Utah, area.
Another Franklin County teen is also missing. Dakota James Laird, 17, was last seen on Dec. 16, 2015. She is described as being 5 feet tall and weighing about 100 pounds. She has brown eyes and black hair and a scar on her left cheek.
If you have information about Burton or Laird, please contact the Franklin County Sheriffâs Office at 208-852-1234.
In Bingham County, 17-year-old Teala Chavonne Ison was last seen on April 6. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. She has tattoos on both forearms and piercings on her abdomen, ears, lip and nose.
Anyone with information about Isonâs whereabouts is urged to contact the Bingham County Sheriffâs Office at 208-785-4440.
Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said runaways are often not reported to the public or the media because most of the juveniles are located within one week.
âI just donât know if there is anything different that we could do,â Nielsen said.
The sheriff said teens run away for a variety of reasons. He said many times theyâre just rebelling, but some are fleeing abusive situations at home. Nielsen said teens are always interviewed when they are located by local law enforcement, and issues are dealt with before returning the child home.
If you have any information about any of the teens missing in East Idaho, you can contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678 or visit the website missingkids.org.
There are many more recently reported missing teens throughout the state. A full list can be found at www.isp.idaho.gov/BCI/index.html.