Three Teens Harboring a Runaway Friend Arrested

Three 18 year old teens from St. George Utah were arrested for harboring their friend who was listed as a runaway by law enforcement.

Missing person

Photo by: chriscom

In a Facebook plea from her distraught father, 17 year old McKenzie Scholzen was reported missing Monday after leaving home to go on a walk and never returning. Jeff Scholzen, McKenzie’s father stated concern for his daughter’s well-being due to suicidal tendencies. Local law enforcement was informed and began investigating the case while the community shared the father’s online post more than eight thousand times in an effort to locate the missing teen. Three days later, McKenzie was located safe and three older teens were arrested.

Road trip

McKenzie was found in a LDS church roughly 40 miles north of her home but hadn’t been there the entire time. The teen along with three 18 year olds had in fact travelled over 800 miles away to northern California before returning to southern Utah. McKenzie who left of her own free will was placed temporarily with a crisis center before being released to her parents. The 18 year olds who weren’t much older than McKenzie but legally considered adults by Utah law were arrested – Luis Rockwood for a warrant and Diego (Jasper) Wellhoff along with Lydia Probst for obstruction of justice and harboring a runaway.

Harboring a runaway

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

McKenzie went on the road trip willingly with her friends but because of her age as a minor, anyone helping her now faces criminal charges. Utah Code 62A-4a-501 states “a person . . . is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if the person:

(a) knowingly and intentionally harbors a child;
(b) knows at the time of harboring the child that the child is a runaway;
(c) fails to notify one of the following, by telephone or other reasonable means, of the location of the child:
i. the parent or legal guardian of the child;
ii. the division; or
iii. a youth services center; and
(d) fails to notify [one of the above persons] within eight hours after the later of:
i. the time that the person becomes aware that the child is a runaway; or
ii. the time that the person begins harboring the child.”

A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine on top of any other charges faced.

Harboring a Runaway

Teens who have chosen to leave home without their parent’s permission are considered runaways and anyone found housing that teen can face criminal charges of harboring a runaway.

Running away hurts those who help you

Photo by: Vincepal
Photo by: Vincepal

Running away may seem like the only resort for teens to escape problems of home life, however most minors are unaware of how this can hurt those who help them. Unless the runaway teens are able to find employment, they will eventually need someone else to feed and house them. Friends, family, or strangers who are compassionate enough to take a runaway teen under their wing can ultimately be punished for their hospitality.

Harboring a runaway

Harboring a runaway or providing any type of shelter for a runaway minor is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a thousand dollar fine. According to Utah Code 62A-4a-415, the person harboring a runaway teen can face charges if they:

Arkansas Shutterbug
Arkansas Shutterbug

• “knowingly and intentionally harbor[s] a minor;

• Knows at the time of harboring the minor that the minor is a runaway;

• Fails to notify one of the following […] of the location of the minor: the parent or legal guardian of the minor; the division; or a youth services center; and

• Fails to notify [one of the above described persons] within eight hours after the later of: the time that the person becomes aware that the minor is a runaway; or the time that the person begins harboring the minor.”

Contact the proper sources

Teens shouldn’t put those they care about in situations where they could face criminal charges for harboring a runaway. If a minor feels that they cannot stay at home for whatsoever reasons, there are options that should be considered before running away such as being upfront with parents about problems or seeking help at a youth shelter. For legal counsel related to harboring a runaway or for minors who are facing any criminal charges, contact a defense attorney who is experienced with adult and juvenile law.