Missing teen returns home

News Staff Writer

After more than a week away from her family, Julia Silva has returned
home. The teen had walked off her family’s front porch and disapppeared
June 24. Friday, the Hopewell teen reunited with her family.

“It was an incredible feeling to have her back home,” said Julia’s father
Jerry. “I was so excited. It just felt like a big weight had been lifted
from my shoulders. We just want everybody to know she’s back home and
that’s the most important part.”

Even now that she is home, the proud and now very happy father won’t even
talk about “the other one,” the possibility that Julia had not just run
away to friends as she did, but that she had been kidnapped. Andrea said
that the first night her youngest sister was home was the first decent
night’s sleep she had gotten in more than a week. During that week, the
family said there was always someone at the house sitting by the phone
and that at least one person each night would go out driving around to
see if they could spot Julia, an insulin-dependent diabetic. The fact
that she has medical needs made the search even more important. As an
insulin dependent diabetic, Julia is required to take two shots of
insulin per day.

Julia admits she moved around frequently and mostly stayed indoors making
it a tougher job for those looking for her. To cope with the fact that
she had taken no insulin with her, she said she stayed active and tried
not to eat much. She also obtained insulin while on her odyssey, but not
of the proper type or dosage.
“The fact that she obtained the insulin, we believe from an adult, does
not make me happy,” Jerry said.

An improper dose of insulin can be just as bad medically as not receiving
any at all in some situations. If a diabetic goes without insulin for too
long, diabetic coma can set in.

After talking with law enforcement authorities and being checked out by
doctors at John Randolph Hospital, Julia returned home, where there was a
lot of hugging, crying and then eating. The Silva’s had one of Julia’s
favorites to celebrate her return–pizza.

“I just felt funny, I really didn’t feel like me,” said Julia about her
time away from home.

The teen admits that at the time of her disappearance, when she just ran
away from home, she didn’t really think about what her family would do or
whether or not they would miss her, only that she needed her space.

“There were a few times while I was away, mostly at night when I would
think about what they were doing,” Julia said on her thoughts about
family while she was gone.
Sitting in the living room of their Hopewell home, her father told of
exactly what he and Julia’s two older sisters Olivia and Andrea did while
the youngest member of the household was gone.

“We sat up at night, drove around, made phone calls and were worried,”
Jerry said.
The family contacted the police from the moment she disappeared and soon
after media alerts were printed and broadcast throughout the area. The
coverage of her disappearance so saturated the media that Julia even
heard about it while on her run.
The family had decided to put out fliers about her disappearance on the
day that she returned home.

“When I first heard about it being on the news and in the papers I was
thinking ‘are you serious?’,” Julia said. “I’ve known of other kids who
ran away and there wasn’t anything on the news about it or anything.”

Jerry describes that as a different situation and said that in his own
daughter’s case, he is quite certain of how deeply he cares for her and
loves her.
“I just never realized how many people cared for me and how much they
cared for me,” Julia said. “I just never realized there would be such a
response, I never really knew that I meant a lot to so many people.”

She said her first night home, she kept waking up realizing that she was
in her room, back in familiar surroundings, despite that she kept feeling
as though someone were going to tap her on the shoulder and tell her she
needed to get moving again.
While she was gone, calls of support and visits came from friends,
neighbors, former teachers and neighbors, as well as strangers who tried
to help locate the runaway.
“It’s just very surreal to be back home and realize that people care for
you that much,” said Julia. She added she has no plans to run away again.

According to the Virginia State Police Web site, www.vsp.state.va.us, the
majority of children who are “missing” are recovered or return home
voluntarily. Children who do run away may be gone for significant periods
of time. Some are found dead, and some are never recovered at all.
Coordination and cooperation between law enforcement, the missing
children’s clearinghouse, and all involved agencies can shorten the time
a child is away from his/her proper custodian or family, lessening
chances of exposure to dangerous situations.

‘Stranger abductions,’ while accounting for the least amount of missing
children, have the most grim outlook for recovery, especially if the
child is not located within 48 hours. Immediate and intensive location
efforts are necessary.

Children abducted by non-custodial parents live the life of victims of
both emotional and sometimes physical abuse. Life is frequently “on the
run,” and they are uprooted from familiar schools, friends and often
moved to other states where their names may be changed to avoid detection.

Runaways comprise the largest category of missing children. The manpower
and resources needed to track them, as well as the perception that they
will eventually return to their families by themselves, have made them a
difficult enforcement problem. Unfortunately, while away, they are likely
to be exposed to adverse and exploitive influences, including drugs and
prostitution. Often they enter criminal statistics through these
activities or others.

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