The Paw Print
Two teenage boys and two teenage girls have been missing from their Iowa homes since last Saturday after meeting on Xbox Live and developing a romance together.
Sixteen-year-old Corey Sunderman met 15-year-old girlfriend Jazlyn Visek through Xbox Live, an online community meant for playing video games together.
After they started dating, Sunderman and Visek made an elaborate plan to run away with two other teens.
Crystal Sunderman, mother of Corey, is distraught as she searches for her son, his friend, and the two girls they disappeared with.
She says this is not the first time her son has run away from home; in fact, this is his third disappearance. He has also met other girls through Xbox, making it clear that Visek was not his first internet girlfriend.
“He’s never been in any trouble for it, and he’s always come home on his own,” says Crystal Sunderman. “I never let him have a Facebook because I didn’t want him meeting people online. I didn’t realize he could do so much on his Xbox.”
The night before the disappearance, Sunderman and his friend Austin Boggs, 13, had a minor run-in with the police for violating curfew.
After the officer brought them home, Sunderman’s mother took the boys’ shoes and kept them in her room, thinking, “If I had their shoes, they couldn’t go out and go skateboarding again,” she said.
However, the boys found other shoes in the garage, and instead of going back out to skateboard, they ran away early Saturday morning. Later that day, Visek and Bigg’s girlfriend, 15-year-old Skie Floyd, also disappeared.
Sunderman and Biggs stole a 1997 gold Jeep Cherokee that belonged to Sunderman’s father Tony Sunderman, as well as $400 from Tony Sunderman’s newly cashed check and Crystal Sunderman’s laptop. The jeep was spotted four hours away from Sunderman’s home at about 10 a.m. Saturday in the same county where Visek and Floyd lived.
So far, none of the teens have been seen since their disappearances. They have had no communications that would be traceable by police, and though the jeep was seen shortly after dinner near the girls’ hometown, they have not been spotted since.
This issue has brought up many questions as to the safety of online communication through Xbox Live and similar online gaming systems. Just last year, a girl was abducted after being convinced to meet a guy she met on Xbox Live, and many more abduction cases have been attempted from using Xbox, Playstation, and Facebook.
“People are not always straight forward when they’re online,” says Sheriff Randall Forsyth. “Always demonstrate caution when you begin talking to strangers online, and never, under any circumstances, should you agree to meet with anyone unless you can validate who they are.”
As for the four missing Iowa teens, their parents are urging them to return home, assuring that they will do what they can to protect them from consequences if they return home.
“The most important thing of all is that wherever our kids are, whatever they’re doing, if any one of them decides they’ve had enough, they will be welcomed home without a doubt,” Crystal Sunderman says. “As their parents, we will do anything to get them home.”
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