2 Stuart runaways call home from New York

The Treasure Coast runaways were located after a newspaper article about
missing children appeared.

By Gabriel Margasak
staff writer
October 14, 2005

STUART – Two missing runaway girls have been located safe and sound after
hearing about themselves being featured in a newspaper article about
missing children, sheriff’s officials said.

Cassandra Rocha, 14, missing since April this year, called her family
from New York to say she was fine after hearing about her picture being
in an article that appeared in this newspaper Oct. 8, Martin County
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Jenell Atlas said Wednesday.

Ernestina Mendoza, now 18, missing since she was 16 in August 2003,
called her family from New York to say someone had shown her the same
article and that she was fine.

“We have been trying to find these two girls the whole time,” Atlas said.
“When they saw and heard about their pictures on the front page of the
newspaper, within 24 hours we had two missing kids we had been looking
for months.”

The two girls, who both ended up in New York, didn’t know each other.

Atlas said Rocha’s family was bringing her home to Stuart.

She said the 14-year-old had been staying with her boyfriend, identified
by investigators as Valentine Rodas, 29.

Rodas was being held in New York on a Martin County warrant charging him
with interfering with custody of a minor in Rocha’s case. He also was
being held on unrelated New York charges, Atlas said.

Meanwhile, Mendoza’s call to her family was enough to confirm she is safe
and she is allowed to stay where she wants because she is now legally an

Though satisfied that two youths on their list had been found safe,
investigators again pleaded for the public’s help to solve Martin
County’s most confounding missing child case: Andrea Parsons.

The 10-year-old disappeared from Port Salerno in July 1993.

“It’s the one last kid we need,” Atlas said. “We need her found.”

© 2005 Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

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