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Missing and Black: Tavia Danaj Bentley

Tavia Bentley

By//Deanna Martin-Osuagwu

When 12-year-old Tavia Danaj Bentley walked out the door of her foster home in February 2012, no one reported it until seven hours later. Bentley, now 13, has been labeled a runaway by the Detroit Police Department but her mother, Katrina Young, will not stop searching for her daughter. As a follow up to our Missing & Black cover story, JET spoke with Young about the details of the case and why she will never lose hope.

JET: Can you share the basic facts regarding your daughter’s disappearance?

Tavia was removed from my custody after her father kidnapped her on Feb. 4, 2012.  My ex-boyfriend, who has a warrant out for his arrest in Michigan for violating probation, had taken our daughter from my mother’s home in Auburn Hills, MI. My child and her father were both found the next day in Detroit, and told police that Tavia had been beaten and left unattended. There were no visible marks. Child welfare investigated. Tavia was then kept in a foster home in Auburn Hills until Feb. 18, when she was moved to a Lutheran-run foster home. She walked out of there early in the morning of Feb. 25. She’d been missing from the foster home for nearly seven hours before I was notified by family services and the Detroit Police Department. 

JET: Please describe the initial 24-48 hours (from contacting police to getting flyers disseminated to informing family members).

The lady at the foster home notified the police and children’s services. She noted that Tavia was only wearing  a shirt and pants and a pair of boots, with no coat or jacket.   

JET: Did the police find any clues at all?

I learned in court that in early March 2012, she’d had many conversations with her father over the cell phone that she was given. She had contacted friends at her school and left a message on a friend’s phone. She said she didn’t know where she was. She wanted to be located.

JET: Do you recall how the case was categorized in the police report?

Authorities have classified my child as a runaway. I believe that her father has her. It’s pretty hard to get coverage about her disappearance due to the classification of runaway.

JET: What are your overall impressions of the media coverage your daughter’s case has received so far?

After the court proceedings regarding parental kidnapping, I have been trying to get coverage. A local news reporter said they don’t do stories on runaways. The DC-Virginia-Maryland area didn’t want to do the story either. The Black and Missing Foundation helped get Ebony and Huff Post for coverage, as well as The Michael Baisden radio show and website.

JET: Do you think Black-owned media has a special responsibility to publicize these cases?

I had heard about parents of Black missing kids not being able to get coverage. National media sweeps these cases under the rug. I appreciate all the help the Black media has tried to give me.

JET: Can you give us an update on the case as it stands today?

I was finally given back full custody in April of last year after the allegations against me were dismissed. On Nov. 30, 2012, I received a phone call from my daughter. She said she was okay but couldn’t tell me her whereabouts, or else I wouldn’t be able to speak to her anymore. She told me she had gotten new glasses and had been to the dentist. She didn’t sound afraid. She was very careful with what she said. She kept her responses short.

JET: What message do you want to share with Tavia?

I miss her. I forgive her for everything that went on. I love her and I want her to return home. It’s not getting any easier. I’m going to continue to hope and pray and do what I can to locate her.

Click here for more details on Bentley’s case… 

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