OREM, Utah (ABC4 News) – Two teenage girls who went missing for a year-and-a-half while visiting their mother in Orem have been found and police say they were with their mother the entire time.
Orem Police say they received a phone call around 3:30 Sunday morning from someone telling them the two girls, 15 year-old Danielle Wolferts and 13 year-old Sydney Wolferts, were with their mother, Sonja Michelle Wolferts, in a Pleasant Grove apartment near 170 S Pleasant Grove Blvd.
“We got a report called in that the two Wolferts girls and their mother were at that home. When they got there this morning they did find Michelle Wolferts and both Dani and Syndey Wolferts,” said Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez.
The three were taken into custody. The girls were taken to a facility to be taken care of, although police would not release where exactly. Their mother was booked into jail on several charges including custodial interference, housing assistance fraud, and filing a false police report. She has since posted bail.
The teens initially went missing back in mid-July, according to their sister Brittany Wolferts, they ran away on July 15th, after learning a court hearing had been pushed back. Their father, Bryan Wolferts, and their mother, Michelle, had been in a long custody battle for years. Bryan Wolferts, who lives in Kansas has legal custody of the girls and has been their legal guardian for the past 4-5 years.
Their mother filed a missing report when they went missing, but as police soon discovered they had been in her custody the entire time.
“It was a suspicion of ours that the mother could be harboring the two girls and we’ve done everything we could to follow through on that. Every lead that came through, we always followed up with,” added Martinez.
Orem Police say they spent hundreds of hours and put several detectives on the case to locate the girls, following up on every lead that came their why. They say it’s frustrating to learn the mother had made a false report when in fact they were in her custody the entire time.
“We spent countless and countless of hours investigating the whereabouts of these two girls and it’s a bit frustrating when it ends up being with the person that ended up reporting them missing in the first place,” says Martinez.
Currently, police say the girls aren’t speaking and investigators are trying to learn where they were and what they were doing during the time they disappeared. Police say it appeared they didn’t go to school for the duration of their disappearance but that they would travel in and out of the Orem area.
“Right now they wont say anything so, we can’t really jump into conclusions into what they do or don’t want,” says Martinez.
Unannounced, the teenage girls 20 year-old sister, Brittany Wolferts, attended the press conference. Saying she had known the two teens had been talking about running away. She says the last time she was in contact with them was on July 15th and accuses her father of putting the girls and her through physical and emotional abuse for years.
“They ran way because of our dad. I’m currently 20 years-old and I moved out when I was 18 and it was a joint decision between me, Sydney, and Dani that the only reason I was moving out was to get them out, otherwise, I would have stayed with them – in his custody – even though I didn’t want to,” she said.
Although her father wasn’t in Orem on Sunday to defend himself against the allegations, he has been contacted by police in Kansas notifying him that his daughter were found.
Police say this is a complicated investigation surrounding a long-standing custodial battle with the two parents, and say they can only do what according to the law.
“This is a very interesting case, you’ve got two sides of the fence, you’re either on one side or the other and I’ve tried to explain to people that we’ve spoken to both sides, and in law enforcement you have to look at both sides and hope that the truth is somewhere in the middle of both stories…All we can do is what the court allows us to do, what the court will allows us to do when it comes to this, and the primary care is with the father and it has been with him for the last year and a half,” says Martinez.
Orem Police say it is in the courts discretion to determine who will get legal custody of the girls. However, there will be some sort of transitional phase to get them back to their father in Kansas within the next week or two as he is currently their full legal guardian.
“Our job is to get them with the primary caregiver that the court has seen is the fit person for them to be with and right now in this case it seems to be the father. Whether or not that’s gonna change, that’s gonna be up to the two parents, the children, and the courts,” says Lt. Martinez.