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Losing Hanna, Part II

Every turn in the case of a teenage runaway gets her more lost in a bureaucratic maze



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What's even weirder is that if she's missing, no one seems to be looking for her. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has no profile that fits her. It's unusual for no relatives to be looking for a missing teenager.

The police appeal to local TV stations and newspapers, asking that they circulate a picture of the girl, the mug shot taken when she was arrested in L.A. Santa Ana Police Investigator Jaime Rodriguez enters her stats - 5-foot-5, 120 pounds, blue eyes, dyed red hair (natural color most likely brown), about 16 years old - into the missing children's website.

Then, Rodriguez waits.

Georgia, April 13, 2004

There is an urgent message on Amanda's answering machine at DFACS. Detective Brian Lee, with the sheriff's department in neighboring Fayette County, says to call him.

Amanda dials his number. The detective tells her he knows where Hanna Montessori is. Amanda asks if Fayette County has her.

Not exactly, he answers. She's in California.

Lee tells Amanda that police out in Santa Ana finally got a tip in the case of an unidentified teenager. A woman whom police described as "another prostitute" came forward and said she knew the girl in the picture that was making the rounds on TV and in the papers. She didn't know the girl's name, but recalled her saying she was from a town in Georgia with a name like "Peachtree."

The woman also told police that the girl talked often about a boy named Otis.

Amanda says she knows Otis. Hanna talked about him as if he was her boyfriend, and Amanda called him several times after Hanna ran away in September, thinking Hanna would have run to him. But she didn't.

Lee then explains to Amanda how Rodriguez, with the Santa Ana Police Department, searched a list of Georgia towns and found one called Peachtree City, in Fayette County. Rodriguez called the Fayette Sheriff's Department and explained that he was trying to find the family of an unidentified girl who might be from around there. But all he had to go on was a mug shot. Could a deputy bring the photo, which is now posted on the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, around to the local high schools to see if anyone recognized her?

Lee tried the high schools first. No luck.

Then he tried group homes, the ones that contract with DFACs. At a Fayette County facility called Johnson Home, one of the girls happened to recognize the picture. She had roomed briefly with the girl in the photo, at a shelter up in Cobb County called Another Chance. She told Lee the girl's name was Hanna.

Staff members at Another Chance gave Lee the full name - Hanna Montessori - and told him to call her DFACS case manager, Amanda.

So here he is, calling Amanda to ask for any phone numbers she might have. He needs to contact Hanna's family.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine, April 13, 2004

It's after 11 p.m. Hanna's older brother Derek, who lives with their dad in Maine, is checking the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to see if his sister's profile has finally made it on there.

Earlier that day, his stepmother, Christine, got a call from a Detective Lee down in Georgia. He said police in Santa Ana, Calif., needed to talk to her husband. Phillip Montessori was working a shift as a security guard, and Christine couldn't reach him right then. By the time he got home, Santa Ana police weren't answering the phone.

Hanna's brother had looked for his sister on the missing children's website before, but there was nothing under her name. This time, however, he has more information: Santa Ana, the city where the police called from.

He starts searching for missing girls in Santa Ana. Several photos pop up. He pauses on one of them.

The girl's lips are tightened, making her look harder than Hanna ever looked. And she has red hair - the last time he saw Hanna, her hair was dirty blond. But it's definitely her.

Her blue eyes give her away.

Georgia, April 2004

It's almost midnight. The phone rings in Maxine's trailer. Cheryl answers.

She runs into Maxine's bedroom.

"She's dead," Cheryl screams. "Oh my god, my baby's dead."

Maxine grabs the phone.

"Are you sure?" she asks. Hanna's father is on the other end.

"Yes," he says, crying. "We have a picture of Hanna on the Internet. I know those blue eyes. That's Hanna. That's our Hanna."

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