In September of 2004, when Giana was sixteen, she ran away from home. She disappeared on a Friday night and we knew she was in the company of two people—a 17 year-old girl I’ll call Tracy, and a 30 year-old man with a wife and kids.
Tracy was a freshman at Fresno Pacific University and she lived on campus. The college campus is located in the south end of Fresno, California where crime is high and the surrounding neighborhoods are in disrepair.
The first few days after the girls went missing were so confusing. Tom and I were in regular contact with Tracy’s parents. We’d hear something and we’d pick up the phone and fill them in, and they would do the same.
Sadly, as had been the case with a handful of other parents, Tracy’s mom and dad blamed us for their daughter’s drug use.
On Monday—three days after our daughter disappeared—Tracy’s parents looked at the bank records and discovered Tracy had spent a good chunk of money at the Target on the corner of Shields and Cedar. Their daughter had also withdrawn money from a mini-mart ATM near Olive and Highway 99. Based on these revelations we had ideas on which area of town to search.
Every little bit of information about our missing kids was like gold to us and to Tracy’s parents. We were frightened moms and dads who just wanted to find our baby girls.
At around four o’clock Wednesday morning my phone rang. Tom and I were barely sleeping, but I’m pretty sure the ringing phone woke me that morning.
“Liz! They found her! They found Tracy!”
The jubilant voice on the other end of the line belonged to Tracy’s mom.
“Where? How is she?”
“She’s fine. She’s in Stockton. The police found her and my husband is on his way to get her now.”
“That’s wonderful!” I meant that. We’d been praying for Tracy nearly as much as we’d prayed for Giana. We hated the idea of any other parent suffering the pain of not knowing where their child was.
I was almost afraid to ask the next question. “Is Giana with her?”
“I don’t think so. We’ll call you when we know more.”
It would be 24 hours before I heard from Tracy’s mom again. As soon as her dad got her into Fresno, Mom joined them and they drove straight on to Utah where they left Tracy at the Turnabout Ranch. We had a mutual friend whose daughter had successfully completed the rehabilitation program at Turnabout, and it was our plan to take Giana there as well—as soon as we found her.
I asked Tracy’s mom if she had any new information about Giana. No, she would tell me, she didn’t. Tracy had slept all the way to Utah and they weren’t in the mood to quiz her.
Not in the mood to quiz her!? For the first time since the girls had gone missing, I got very angry. I had no idea how to react. I held the phone…silent. Tracy’s mom continued.
“You must promise me you will NOT take Giana to Turnabout Ranch when you find her.”
I weighed my words carefully. “We’ve been searching for the right place for her. Turnabout is exactly the program we’ve been looking for.”
She was adamant. “Promise me, Liz. Promise me! I do not want Giana near Tracy. They won’t get well if they’re together.”
I hung up the phone. Tom went ballistic. He wanted to know why his daughter wouldn’t get the same quality program that Turnabout offered. We felt so helpless. We didn’t know where our daughter was, and now someone was telling us where we could and could not take her for healing when we found her!
We never talked to Tracy’s parents again. They always seemed to blame us for their daughter’s missteps. Giana went to a much better rehab, and it turned out that Aspen Ranch—a rehabilitation facility about 80 miles from Turnabout—was EXACTLY where she was supposed to be.