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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 10, 2013 8:11 pm

13-year-old Utah girl still missing 2 days later

By BRADY McCOMBSAssociated Press

With a major snowstorm under way, a 13-year-old girl who disappeared two days ago without her shoes, coat or cellphone remains missing in the Salt Lake City area.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said Thursday evening that there are circumstances surrounding the case that concern authorities. Authorities had said earlier that there were no signs of forced entry at Brooklyn Gittins' home, where she was last seen at bedtime Tuesday. The teenager had run away once before.

"Clearly, there are suggestions that her departure was unplanned," Winder said at a news conference.

With the help of 1,000 volunteers dressed for the cold, police searched 17 square miles Thursday in the area near Gittins' home in Herriman, a Salt Lake City suburb about 18 miles southwest of downtown.

Police divided volunteers into teams to cover the area in a grid pattern. Authorities pulled volunteers off the search once it became dark and snow came down heavily.

Winder said authorities were concluding the ground search Thursday evening and launching specialized searches with horse-mounted officers and dogs, Winder said. That will allow police to search areas they were unable to get to by foot.

Authorities were especially concerned because of the storm that is expected to dump as much as 7 inches of snow and bring freezing temperatures.

Gittins' grandfather Craig Hiller made a plea at the news conference that for her to come back. He said she's a typical teenage girl who is very outgoing in some cases and very subdued in others.

The first time she ran away, she came back a short while later, Hiller said.

The possibility that she left the area in a car or bus has not been ruled out, but detectives have no indication of that, said Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal. Authorities became concerned after they spoke with a list of friends given to them by the family, and all of them said they didn't know where she was.

Gittins - described as 5 feet tall and 115 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes - was last seen wearing a T-shirt and black pajama pants with an image of a white Scottie dog, police said.

Investigators were interviewing friends and acquaintances with the hope of learning more about the disappearance. They've received numerous tips about her whereabouts, but none has panned out, Winder said.

"We're very, very saddened by the fact that to date, we've been unable to locate her," said Winder.

But, he also promised that his agency is not giving up on this case. "We are going to work this until the bitter end," he said.