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Published October 07, 2011, 09:48 AM

10-year-old Utah Girl Missing Since February Found in Killdeer, ND

KILLDEER, ND - A 10-year-old Utah girl who had been missing since February had an emotional reunion with her father Thursday, according to the Killdeer Police Department.

By: Ashley Martin, Forum Communications

KILLDEER, ND - A 10-year-old Utah girl who had been missing since February had an emotional reunion with her father Thursday, according to the Killdeer Police Department.

Dunn County State’s Attorney Ross Sundeen said police discovered the girl, whose identity was not disclosed, unharmed in a Killdeer trailer park Wednesday evening.

“These are one of those things that don’t happen very often and when it does happen, it’s very rewarding for the officers involved to actually see a family get back their child who’s been missing for so long,” said KPD Chief Chris Fenstermaker. “It’s such a traumatic thing for the family and to kind of be there and help them out with that, it’s really something special.”

The girl had been staying with her mother, Athena Venus Barker, who is also known as Athena Crowder, and Sanford Grayson Barker, neither of whom had custody of the child, Sundeen said.

Fenstermaker believes the girl had been in Killdeer since she was reported missing and was not attending school.

“I don’t think they let her out very much,” Fenstermaker said. “That’s why it took us so long to find out where she was at.”

The child was discovered because of an attempted traffic stop, authorities said.

KPD Officer Justin Hill attempted to stop Sanford Barker Saturday because of a broken taillight, according to Dunn County court records.

Sanford Barker allegedly sped up after Hill turned on the police vehicle’s emergency lights and fled to a camper in a trailer park in south Killdeer, according to records.

“Through the quick thinking of the Killdeer PD, they impounded his car as fruit of the crime,” Sundeen said. “When they did an inventory search, they found a picture of a young girl that matched a picture from a missing list of children. Based on some things that occurred at the scene, they were confident that child was in the home.”

Officers investigated the situation for a few days before taking the girl into custody, Fenstermaker said.

The Barkers face misdemeanor charges, Sundeen said.

Athena Barker is charged with hindering law enforcement and giving false information to officers, according to court records. Sanford Barker is charged with fleeing an officer, carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle and failing to comply with an officer.

Since it’s unclear how the child wound up with the Barkers, they

have not been charged in that regard, Sundeen said.

“She (Athena Barker) may have wrongfully detained the child,” he said. “We don’t have all the background. We just know that the girl was put on the missing persons list.”

It’s possible charges could be filed in Utah as well, Sundeen said. The investigation is ongoing, Fenstermaker said.

“It’s a really cool story when you get right down to it because, you know, when you think about it, if this guy would have just pulled over, took his $20 ticket for failing to have a taillight, we never would have known about that girl,” Sundeen said. “Really if it hadn’t been for their diligence and following up on that and Chief Fenstermaker’s recollection of that missing persons photo, that girl probably would still be in that trailer.”

Martin is a reporter at the Dickinson Press

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