NAMPA -- Two disturbing cases in Canyon County are bringing up a concern for police and prosecutors: The danger runaway teens place themselves in.
This week, two suspects in the jail's booking records stood out. Their cases are unrelated, but they are similar in nature. Both were accused of lewd conduct with a minor under 16.
Court records also revealed both cases involved runaway teenage girls being approached by strangers, who prosecutors say had inappropriate sexual contact with the teens.
A month and a half ago, Nampa Police say four girls ran away from their children's group home and ended up going to a motel where James D. Kirk was living. Police say he engaged in sexual acts with two of the girls. One, a 13-year-old, told police the suspect forced himself on her and put pills into her mouth.
This is a parent's worst nightmare, said Nampa Police Sgt. Donald Peck.
Peck says things don't usually turn out this way, but runaway teens are at an even greater danger than others because they are vulnerable and in that moment don't have caring adults to help them.
These make great targets for people because a predator can get close to them, Peck said. They can become easily victimized because there's nobody for them to go back and talk to.
Caldwell Police also recently wrote up a case involving a runaway 15-year-old girl got into similar trouble earlier this year. They say she met Thomas Saunders in Nampa, where she alleges he gave her drugs, then engaged in sexual acts with her on a train platform.
Unfortunately it does happen pretty regularly, said Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin. We are in a situation where because they are runaways, they are in a more vulnerable situation.
Kallin and Peck advise parents and guardians to warn children that there are dangerous people looking for kids out by themselves.
I think it's important to remember that these are kids. They don't necessarily know what they're doing, and they are in a situation where they're making poor decisions because they are children, and they're being preyed upon, Kallin said.
The children's home responded to KTVB's requests for comment by sending the policies they use for missing and runaway kids. The policies include plans to both discourage children from running away, as well as an exact protocol for finding them.
Both suspects in the un-related cases remain in the Canyon County Jail.