RIPON, Wis. (WBAY) - A 15-year-old Ripon girl who was considered missing and endangered was found Tuesday hundreds of miles away in Arizona.
Photos of Cassandra Garza provided by Ripon Police Dept.
Authorities believe Cassandra Garza was traveling with 21-year-old Talin Ross. Phoenix police arrested Ross Tuesday at 6 a.m. Cassandra was not with him at the time.
The Berlin man is charged in Green Lake County with second-degree sexual assault of a child under 16. He had a warrant for his arrest. The FBI and local law enforcement were able to track Ross and Cassandra to Arizona.
Action 2 News was with Cassandra's mother when she received the call from police saying Cassandra had been located.
"Thank you so much. Alright, bye. It is 100% her," Jennifer Lybert said, releasing a heavy sigh before putting her hands to her face.
It was an emotional moment. Tears streamed down as she leaned over to hug her son, Cassandra's brother, Michael.
Both of them told us they've experienced a roller-coaster of emotions over the last week, going back and forth between crying and trying to stay strong.
Lybert last spoke with her daughter on Wednesday. Cassandra said she planned to go with Talin Ross to North Dakota, where Ross' father owns property. The pair never showed up there, leaving Lybert with unanswered questions about where her daughter was, what she was doing, and if she would ever be found.
"What did he do to her? All kinds of different ideas go through your head, and you try to stay positive," Lybert said.
She didn't give up hope, posting about Cassandra on social media and looking into every tip from people who thought they saw the girl. It was one of those messages Sunday night that turned the focus to Arizona.
The Ripon Police Department received a call from the FBI early Tuesday afternoon confirming Cassandra was safe. She was found at a Goodwill store in Tucson. That's about 100 miles from Phoenix.
"It feels good. I know there's a long, rocky road ahead of us, and obviously she's going to need a lot of treatment, but it feels good to know that they found her and that she is safe," Lybert said.
Ripon Police Capt. Troy Damsteegt said, "A lot of times in law enforcement when you deal with juvenile runaways, they're teens that have disagreement at home and they go away to a friend or a family members for a little while and eventually they come back home after a short period of time. They don't go to this extreme."
Arrangements are being made to bring Cassandra back home to Ripon.
Police expect Ross to be extradited to Wisconsin in the coming days to face additional local -- and possibly federal -- charges in this case.
"I hope he's locked up for quite a long time," Lybert said. "I hope he gets the help that he needs while he's locked up. I don't want him to get out and do this to any other parent, because nobody should have to go through this."
A 15-year-old girl missing from Ripon is believed to be traveling with a man wanted for sexual assault of a child.
Ripon police say Cassandra Garza was last seen Wednesday, October 30, at the Big Minnow Bar in Holcombe, in Chippewa County. She indicated she was headed for North Dakota.
She's believed to be riding with Talin Ross, a 21-year-old from Berlin who's charged in Green Lake County with second-degree sexual assault of a child under 16. Online court records show he was charged last Friday, Nov. 1, and an arrest warrant was issued the same day.
Cassandra is 5'5" and 220 pounds. She has blue eyes and blond hair. She wears glasses and has a nose piercing. She has a scar on her left leg.
Their car is described as a gray, 2003 model Pontiac Bonneville four-door. It has a newer Wisconsin license plate, ACM 1642.