Technology Leads Law Enforcement Astray

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COLUMBIA - A 14-year-old girl reported missing this weekend never actually left home. Melissa Casarrubias said her daughter was in bed when police arrived at her home shortly after midnight.

"I walked upstairs half-asleep and my house was just swarmed with police officers and rescue people and it was just nuts," said Casarrubias.

However, the Boone County Fire Protection District heard otherwise. "We got the initial report of this 14-year-old girl that was missing and had apparently taken some sort of medication," said Boone County Fire Protection battalion chief Gale Blomenkamp.

A friend of the girl had called police because the girl had reportedly been threatening to take medications.

"I went to the door and the police were looking for my daughter and said she was missing. I said she's in bed asleep. She's not a runaway. She would never runaway."

Columbia Joint Communications received a ping from a cell phone when looking for the girl saying she was near ABC Lane, about seven miles from her home.

The ping meant the department detected that a cell phone coming from the area belonged to her. Now Casarrubias is questioning the accuracy of law enforcement locating people like her daughter.

"The accuracy of those depends on where exactly the cell phone can be located," said the director of Columbia Joint Communications, Brian Mayewell. "So if you have a GPS device in your phone and are located in a large metal building it is completely possible your cell phone location could be off by as much as a half mile."

"If you are in a place that only has one cell phone tower, the only thing that is going to come back is that location of that cell phone tower, so it is kind of limiting," said Mayewell.

Casarrubias said she is thankful for her daughter's friends who reported she was in trouble, but she wishes this situation would have been handled differently. "If they don't know then they don't need to say anything because it honestly has caused a lot of problems," said Casarrubias. "My parents think my daughter is a runaway and think I am doing something wrong."