UPDATE: The teens have been found safe and unharmed, and they're back home with their families. Check out the upcoming Saturday edition of Allied News (July 20) for more details.

From July 13, 2019:

The families of two Mercer County runaway teens pleaded Thursday for their safe return.

"That's all we're asking," said Rachel Steese of Pine Township.

State police said Jarod Franklin Steese, 17, and his girlfriend, Emma Jean Reiter, 14, of Jefferson Township, are believed to have left their homes sometime Tuesday morning. Police believe the two are traveling together.

Rachel Steese, Jarod's stepmother, and Shannon Reiter, Emma's mother, said the children left notes at their homes. In the notes, both teens said they had decided to leave their homes, and that they had discarded their cell phones.

Jarod and Emma said in the notes that their decision to leave home was not related to anything their family members said or did and urged their parents not to look for them.

Shannon Reiter said she last saw her daughter at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, when they went to bed. She said she tried to wake her daughter around 8 a.m. and discovered the girl was missing.

Both parents believe that someone picked up Jarod and Emma in the middle of the night and drove off — Jarod does not have a car or license, and neither teen has a credit card, their parents said.

Both Steese and Reiter said they have spoken to the teenagers' friends, including one person suspected of driving them out of town. That friend claimed to know nothing about their whereabouts.

A check of the teenagers' bank accounts revealed no recent activity.

"Right now we're at a dead end," Steese said.

The two families hope that anyone with information comes forward as soon as possible.

Both women said nothing of significance happened before the teens ran away, like an argument. They aren't sure why they would leave home.

"This is totally out of character for Emma," Reiter said.

She believes that the teens first met about five or six weeks ago and that they have been dating for a little more than a week.

One of Emma's friends remembered her saying something about running away to New York someday – a comment that most people might not take seriously, Reiter said.

Both sets of parents have filed reports with police and are spreading the word by social media, and they plan to hand out flyers with information about Jarod and Emma. They have also shared information with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Jarod is about 5 feet 10 inches tall with a thin build. He has dark blond hair, blue eyes and glasses. He might be wearing a thick, gold chain around his neck, said Steese, who lives with Jarod's father Rob.

Emma is about 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighs 125 pounds, with chestnut-colored, shoulder-length hair dyed reddish-brown, and she has a nose piercing, her mother said.

The families are searching bus stations, and a motorcycle group has offered to help pass out flyers this weekend, Steese said.

"We've covered everything," she said.

Friends and family have also been helping and offering support, including Reiter's ex-husband, Matthew, and Jarod's mother, Jennifer Dean.

Reiter and Steese want the kids to know that they're not in trouble.

"We just want them to come home," Reiter said.

STEESE AND REITER urge anyone with information on the teens' whereabouts to contact state police at 724-662-6162, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.

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