We have all become far too familiar with this scene: Chelsea King, 17, is missing after taking a routine run after school. The Poway High School long-distance runner had informed one of her classmates that she was going running and it looks as if that is exactly what she did. But Chelsea King never made it home. Her locked car was found in the parking lot of Rancho Bernardo Community Park, her cell phone inside.
Chelsea King went missing Thursday sometime in the afternoon. When her parents, Brent and Kelly, realized that she was more than just a little late, they filed a missing persons report. And since 7 p.m. Thursday evening, upwards of 250 local and federal law enforcement officials, rescue workers, dog teams, helicopters, and volunteers have searched the Rancho Bernardo Community Park and the immediate area around it north of San Diego, hoping to find something that will lead them to Chelsea King.
But it is the word “routine” that jumps out at us in these situations. Lulled into a false sense of security, many of us trust our environment to remain as it always has – as part of the daily movement of our lives, with small, recognizable, and adaptable changes occurring as time progresses. We rarely see the predator, the stalker, the invasive force that has entered our world and is intent on taking advantage of the routine and altering it at the same time.
Although there are no direct indications that Chelsea King was abducted or that any type of foul play was involved in her disappearance, the longer she remains missing, the more the likelihood that something untoward befell her on her “routine” run in the park. And even though the Poway cross country coach cautioned his runners, especially the girls, to never run alone, it appears that Chelsea King did just that.
And it appears that someone may have taken advantage of her routine training regimen.
Authorities are hard-pressed to explain the teen’s disappearance. Without much to go on and no physical evidence (that has been made public) of a struggle or of foul play of any kind, investigators have to work under the assumption that anything could have occurred to cause Chelsea King to not finish her routine and go home as was her usual pattern of behavior. They must take into consideration that, even though she is a straight-A student with no record of trouble or behavioral problems, she may have run away. Or she may have simply ran off the beaten path and somehow injured herself to the point that she could not make it back to a pathway or to her vehicle. She may have even decided to spend time with a boyfriend or a group of friends. And, unfortunately, authorities have to look at Chelsea King’s disappearance as perhaps the work of a kidnapper and/or a sexual predator whose intentions could lead to the teen never making it home.
According to NBC San Diego, the FBI has become involved in the case and is working under the assumption that the missing Poway student was abducted. Agents have taken possession of her cell phone and personal computer, hoping to generate leads from her usage of those devices, find whatever caused a break in the missing girl’s routine.
Along with official searches, many of Chelsea King’s classmates skipped school Friday to help in the search for the missing teen. They hit the streets of Poway and Escondido, passing out fliers and posting them in windows. Many of those same young people continued searching through the night. At Poway High School, officials told the students that their classmate had gone missing the day before.
A massive volunteer effort was planned for Saturday to scour the Rancho Bernardo Community Park with upwards of 500 people expected to take part in the search.
Chelsea King’s parents posted a recent picture and description of the teen online, hoping to prompt some leads in the case. The 17-year-old is 5′ 5″, blond, blue-eyed, and weighs approximately 115 pounds.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Chelsea King are urged to call San Diego Sheriff’s Department at (858) 565-5200 or San Diego Crime Stoppers at (619) 531-2000.