Mother of missing teen: ‘Just come home, baby’

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WATERLOO, IL (KPLR) – The distraught mother of Ja-Tayah Leila Frank is pleading for her daughter to return home.

Frank, 13, ran off Monday morning after taking a cab from her Mt. Vernon home to a faith-based summer program called Camp Wartburg, located in Waterloo, Illinois. Camp employees told police Frank got out of the cab, dropped her bags, and ran off on foot.

Frank’s mother, Tyeast Harris, said she was at the camp from June 14 to June 19, but is not currently a camper.

Harris believes her daughter is still at the camp somewhere. She spent the night at the camp in her car, anxiously awaiting any word from searchers.

“You just don’t know where to look,” Harris said. “You want everybody looking everywhere. You just want your baby found.”

Prior to leaving the house on Monday, Frank spent her morning watching television, her mother said.

Harris cannot imagine why her daughter would come all the way back to the camp and disappear.

Over 100 people from fire and police departments across Monroe County turned out Monday afternoon to search the 117-acre property. Police tried to track the girl’s cell phone, but it was turned off.

Authorities were relying on search dogs, but Monday’s rainfall disrupted those efforts. Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said state police planes equipped with thermal imaging were used in the search Monday evening. The search was called off Tuesday around 2 a.m.

Rohlfing said a lot of the corn fields in the search area are taller than Frank, so search parties will have to go almost row by row. Tuesday’s search will start in the corn fields and then move to the wooded area.

Law enforcement has contacted local area motels and hotels to make sure Frank didn’t check in any of those places.