Montana Department of Justice Honors Miles City Teacher for Role in Student’s Rescue

The Montana Department of Justice recognized a Miles City teacher today for her help in rescuing a missing 17-year old girl abducted by her non-custodial father.

On March 7, 2018, Miles City 9-1-1 received a call from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Child Abuse Hotline, indicating that a 17-year-old Native American girl left her foster home on a school bus that morning, but never arrived at school.  It was initially thought she had possibly run away with her non-custodial father.  Within 24 hours, the Custer County Sheriff’s Office had information regarding the missing teen entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File by Miles City 9-1-1.  The NCIC record listed her as a runaway.

Custer County High School teacher/counselor Valerie Pachl remembered the girl saying her non-custodial father was threatening to take her, as well as some money coming to her.  The girl’s father also had plans to force her to work for her grandmother.  When the teenager went missing, Pachl told others she strongly believed the student was taken against her will.

Pachl contacted Lost & Missing in Indian Country, which reached out to Montana’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse at the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation.  Pachl’s observations and contact information were immediately shared with the Custer County Sheriff’s Office.  Next, a record was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a clearing house for missing persons.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was also alerted and quickly deployed resources.  Additionally, tribal authorities took steps to protect funds being held for the missing student so her non-custodial father could not access them.  Ultimately, the girl was rescued and her non-custodial father was arrested in Oklahoma; charges are pending.

This morning, Pachl was honored at a ceremony in Miles City.  Bryan Lockerby, Administrator of the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, presented Pachl with a plaque in appreciation of the critical information she provided, which escalated the missing person case and led to the activation of multiple resources.  Lockerby said, “It’s people like you who go above and beyond to provide protection and support to Montana’s children.  You got involved, shifted from concerned citizen to active participant, and made a difference in the future of a young woman likely destined to grow up under difficult circumstances, with little hope of escape.  Thank you for all you do to support your students, this community, and our state.”

For more information about Montana’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse, visit https://dojmt.gov/missing-persons/.