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'Romeo and Juliet' Runaways Found Safe in North Side Parking Lot

By Darryl Holliday | September 8, 2013 9:32pm
 The teens dubbed "Michigan's Romeo and Juliet" found safe in a parking lot after running out of gas.
The teens dubbed "Michigan's Romeo and Juliet" found safe in a parking lot after running out of gas.
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LAKEVIEW — Two teens, dubbed "Michigan's Romeo and Juliet," have been found safe in Chicago after fleeing in their parents' SUV nearly two weeks ago.

An anonymous caller spotted Braxton Wood, 14 and Jayden Clare, 13, near a Wrigleyville parking lot Sunday morning and informed police, according to Mike Cook, a private investigator on the case.

Police said the young couple's 2005 Ford Explorer — which they had taken from Wood's family — had run out of gas when they were picked up by authorities at about 9 a.m.

According to NBC News, the two were due to start their freshman year at different high schools last week and, according to their parents, had once broken up over it.

A Facebook page with more than 2,500 likes featured daily updates on the star-crossed couple's case, including photos, volunteer sign-ups, media reports and warnings to those who might "harbor" the teens.

"The media coverage took off like wildfire," Cook said. "The Romeo and Juliet part was big media at work, but it assisted us obviously."

Cook called the case one of the most emotional of more than a dozen he's taken on involving missing children — including cases of human trafficking.

"I've been working for hours," the volunteer investigator said Sunday night. "This isn’t like a 9-5 — last night was the first time I've been home since last Wednesday. I've been wearing the same clothes since last Friday."

According to Cook, investigators and authorities received various tips, including several from the Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin and Chicago, but they knew the couple was found when Sunday's anonymous tipper read the correct license plate from the Wood family vehicle.

Chicago Police Sgt. Tim Edeling told WBBM-AM that he complimented 14-year-old Braxton on safely piloting the SUV as far as he did.

"I actually told him, 'Hey, you did good, kid, because when I was 13 or 14, I would have found the first tree," Edeling told WBBM. 

Cook said he doesn't accept money for the cases he works and as of Sunday didn't know why the teens had left.

"This one never had an answer ... If it was the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing that’s fine, but what was the reasoning?" Cook said. "I've never been given the answer — up until this morning the parents didn’t know and they may still not know."

According to NBC News, the pair left town because their parents wouldn't let them be together.

After being taken into "protective custody" without incident, both sets of parents arrived in Chicago Sunday to retrieve the couple from District 19, police said.