“She always knows how to make you smile. She’s kind of one of those goofy kids.”
15-year-old Lindsey Zimmerman ran away from home. She hasn’t been seen by her family in almost a month and a half.
“We love her. And we want her home. All of us love her,” says Misty Knight, Lindsey’s aunt.
Police tell me Lindsey got into a fight with her mother, made a phone call to a friend, took off, and hasn’t been seen since. That was on Dec. 23, 2020.
From there, family members believe she was in Hardin, then Clarkston, Washington. As of Feb. 3, Misty says she believes she’s on her way to Colorado, and police think there’s a good chance she could also be somewhere in Washington or Idaho.
Because she ran away, of her own free will, police say they are limited in what they can do to track her down. Misty tells me last she heard, Lindsey was sleeping in a car with two boys.
“Even though she’s a runaway, she’s still only 15. She’s still a child. There’s so many dangers out there these days, and she can get into so much trouble and not even know she’s getting there,” says Misty.
Misty says that’s why she reached out to me. She wasn’t getting as much help as she wanted in finding her niece, and is hoping to keep the momentum going.
“If more people see her picture and it gets out there maybe someone will come forward.”
Lindsey is a gamer, she has her skateboard with her so she might also be at a skate park. If you see or hear anything, you’re asked to call local police immediately.
“That she’s not going to come home. That’s my biggest fear. I just want her home, and safe.”
Great Falls Police Lieutenant Doug Otto says he understands, and they want to help, but their resources are limited in a runaway case.
“It is frustrating. I have children myself and they’re all grown but during that time… you always want to make sure they’re safe and not knowing that creates anxiety.”
Lt. Otto tells me Lindsey’s case is similar to a lot of what they deal with… an angry teen gets into a fight with their parents and takes off. In the eyes of her family, she’s missing and needs help. But in the eyes of the law, she’s considered to be an “ungovernable youth”... not necessarily in danger because we know she’s with someone of her own free will, but not willing to listen to adults in the room.
“The 4th amendment protects a lot of privacy and that sometimes we aren’t able to get,” says Otto.
In Lindsey’s case, she has a working phone, her family has asked police to check the phone records to see where she last pinged, but again, because she’s not in immediate danger, the phone companies won’t hand any information over.
“Even then parents will sometimes have a difficult time getting information on the phones. I’ve encountered that trying to get information on my own phone lines, and it is not easy.”
So where does that leave families with missing children? Often… it means they’re stuck. Waiting for answers. And left with a warning for other parents.
“Getting to know as much as you can about your child and having that relationship built… it’s a challenge. Like I said kids want to be independent, but they’re at that age too where they don’t understand what’s really out there.”