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August 26, 2013
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Missing Arizona teen texted friend he wanted to run off

Missing Arizona teen Johnathan Croom texted a friend that he wanted to run away from his current life shortly before he disappeared last week, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

A friend of the family said Croom was a fan of the movie “Into the Wild,” and may have intended to set off on a wilderness adventure like the film’s main character when the teen abandoned his SUV in Riddle last week.

Johnathan Austin Croom, 18, had been in the Seattle area visiting a female friend and was believed to be on his way back to begin classes at Mesa Community College when he disappeared. He was last heard from Aug. 17 and was due back in Arizona the next day, according to his family.

On Monday, the 2000 Honda CR-V he was driving was found on Yokum Road, parked 2 1/2 miles from Interstate 5.

April Cervantez, a coworker of his father, David Croom, and family friend, worries that Johnathan Croom may have intended to copy the main character in “Into the Wild,” who heads into the Alaskan wilderness and camps in an abandoned bus.

“Johnathan left his wallet and everything behind just like this guy in the movie. He goes with just the clothes on his back,” said Cervantez, who works at Hybrid Financial Group in Phoenix.

Cervantez said she doubts Croom was prepared for such a trip. Family members say he likely left with little more than the T-shirt and shorts he was last seen wearing and a multi-colored backpack.

“We’re just praying we find him alive,” she said. “Every day that goes by I feel like we’re losing him. He’s only 18 years old.”

Cervantez said Croom had not taken his glasses and is probably wearing contact lenses that have already been worn too long. She said the teen has poor vision.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dwes Hutson said this morning that ground searches of the area where the vehicle was found have turned up no leads.

Douglas County Search and Rescue crews scoured the Cow Creek area near Yokum Road on Saturday and the Sheriff’s Office will continue to conduct limited searches, including air searches, based on leads from members of the public.

“There’s no indication of foul play still at this point. I’m hoping that he’s, obviously, OK and he’s decided to try to live off the land for a couple of days,” Hutson said. “There are indications from texted messages that he wanted to run away from his current life.”

Still, Hutson said if Croom intended to head into the wild, he chose a mostly residential area for a starting point.

“This area is ... pretty well populated. There’s Cow Creek, of course, and they’ve done some searches down there,” Hutson said.

The Honda did not break down, nor was it out of gas. The only damage was to a windshield and that had been done on the drive up to Seattle, according to David Croom. He said the Honda was unlocked, and the keys were gone. But some cash was in the car, as well as his son’s identification.

David Croom flew to Oregon after the Sheriff’s Office contacted him about the abandoned car. He distributed fliers in Riddle and Roseburg over the weekend. He is offering a $5,000 reward.

Johnathan Croom is described as 6 feet 1 inch tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and “bouncy” brown hair.

The sheriff’s office asked that anyone with information about Johnathan Croom’s whereabouts call 541-440-4471.

• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Aug 26, 2013 02:35PM Published Aug 27, 2013 09:35AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.