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Orange County Sheriff officials and family members say Nya Jingles, a 14-year-old from Yorba Linda, has been found safe Tuesday after she had been missing for five days.
“They found my baby, the Sheriff found my baby … thank you Orange County Sheriff,” said Jingles’ mother Valanitta in a Facebook Live broadcast at around 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“Nya has been located, is safe and will be returned home to her family. Thank you to the community for sharing her information,” wrote the Sheriff’s Dept. in a Facebook posting around the same time.
Sheriff spokesperson Carrie Braun wouldn’t take media questions on Tuesday night, referring reporters to the department’s Facebook post. Valanitta Jingles also didn’t respond to Voice of OC requests for comment Tuesday night.
The news came on the fifth day of the search for Jingles, just when various news outlets started to put a spotlight on Nya Jingles, who left her home in Yorba Linda on April 16 and was later declared missing.
It also came after the family and volunteers assisting the search questioned Sheriff officials’ initial approach to the case, which was to initially label Jingles as a “juvenile runaway” in public notices rather than stating from the onset that Jingles was living with disabilities, was without needed medication, and faced possible danger.
“I told you she was not a runaway, I told you my baby was lost,” Valanitta stated firmly in the Facebook Live broadcast. “She couldn’t find her way back home. She is not a juvenile runaway, she is a child who has a disability and she got lost.”
Sheriff officials previously told Voice of OC they later re-classified Jingles’ case as ‘at-risk’ because information about her condition had been provided at a later point.
Valanitta Jingles, on the other hand, told Voice of OC the department was aware of her daughter’s disability from the onset.
The delays in classifying Nya as ‘at-risk’ has prompted questions over the systemic issues around the way government agencies treat missing persons cases, especially for those who live with mental health conditions or disabilities.
Still, Jingles voiced her appreciation for the department when her daughter was found: “Thank you Jesus, thank you so much. Thank you Orange County Sheriff, you found my baby who was lost and disoriented … thank you to all of you out there who have been looking for my baby.”
For all five days she was missing, Nya Jingles was never listed on the state’s missing persons database.