By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
Moapa Valley residents turned out en masse last week to help members of a local family find their missing teen-age son.
On Tuesday evening, 14 year old Max Shambaugh, of Logandale, ran away from home. The family had moved to the Moapa Valley community only six months ago from California. According to the boys grandmother, long time Logandale resident Karen Alsum, Max was facing a number of personal challenges, partly related to the recent relocation.
“There were just a whole series of things; at school and with friends; that just kind of came down on him all at once and were weighing him down,” Alsum said. “I think, as a young teen, he just had trouble seeing a way out other than to leave.”
Max reportedly left home without permission on late Tuesday afternoon, riding his bicycle. By Wednesday morning his family had still had no word of his whereabouts. They were understandably concerned and worried about him.
“Going through this experience was the absolute worst thing we have ever had to endure,” said Max’s mother, Jeanette Shambaugh. “It was impossible to think that we might never see him again!”
But the family didn’t spend much time dwelling on the worst case scenario. With the help of some friends, Jeanette launched a social media campaign that would soon reach out to much of Moapa Valley and beyond. In addition, the group posted fliers, including a photo of Max, all over town. They hoped that someone would see him and report his whereabouts.
By mid-morning, a sizeable group of local volunteers had begun an informal search for Max in the community.
Jeanette mentioned that the staff, faculty and students at Mack Lyon Middle School, where Max attends, was tremendously helpful in the efforts to find him.
“They spent hours getting any and all information to our family and to authorities to find any clue (of Max’s whereabouts),” Jeanette said. “I feel honored to be able to send my son to school with such loving and caring people.”
By Wednesday evening, the search had snowballed into a major community effort involving hundreds of people. To coordinate the volunteer search efforts, Metro Police set up a command post in the parking lot of the LDS Logandale Chapel.
Metro Officer Otto Foster said that such a police response was somewhat out of the ordinary in Clark County. Cases of runaway teens are a fairly common occurence in the urban areas of Las Vegas, Foster said. Unless they meet a fairly strict set of criteria, police response is fairly limited.
Foster explained that those criteria include situations where the teen might be in danger of causing harm to himself or others, incidents where there are serious health risks involved with the teen being away from medicine or medical care, or an incident where a crime like kidnapping might be involved. None of these criteria applied in this case, Foster said.
“We had no information to indicate that the boy was hurt or in danger,” Foster said.
Still, this situation was somewhat unique. And so the police response was also unusual.
“This was something that happened in a small community, where these kinds of incidents are not very common,” Foster said. “A lot of people care and get involved with a situation like this. In this case, where there were so many people that got involved, we were definitely going to be there to give assistance.”
Foster said that all of the local Metro officers were present and assisted in coordinating the search efforts on Wednesday evening.
In addition, many of the local volunteer fire station personnel were out in the community, assisting in the search, Foster said.
By that time, word of the search had spread well beyond the confines of Moapa Valley. It had reached officials from the regional Red Rock Search and Rescue organization. This volunteer group specializes in looking for lost or missing persons in remote desert environments.
A small army of Red Rock Search and Rescue volunteers were dispatched to the community to help in the search. They showed up at the Logandale command post at around 5:30 pm on Wednesday evening. These volunteers, along with a crowd of local searchers, fanned out throughout the community searching every field, neighborhood, river thicket and ditch that they could access.
“Much of the search that night was focused in that Logandale area because we had credible sources that he was last seen in that area,” Foster said.
But by 10:30 pm, the search had been unsuccessful. The youth had still not been found. And the family was faced with another night without Max.
Foster praised all of the volunteers that had worked so hard in Wednesday evening’s search. “The community really showed its strength that night,” he said. “I think it speaks volumes to the caliber of this community. It is a good reflection of its residents, how much involvement there was.”
Meanwhile, apparently unaware of all the search efforts going on in his behalf, Max had made his way to the railroad tracks west of Logandale. He had followed the tracks north out of town, through the Muddy River narrows and had come out on the Glendale side.
On Thursday morning, he was sighted walking along State Highway 168, near the turnoff for the Muddy River Indian Reservation, by an Overton Power District crew. The OPD crew reportedly recognized him as being the subject of the community’s search and called Metro police to report his whereabouts. They then kept an eye on Max from a distance.
While Metro officers were enroute. a motorist along the highway also noticed Max hitchhiking along the road. It was local nurse Jodi Lehman. She had also seen the social media posts of the day before, and knew who Max was. Lehman stopped and offered him a ride.
At this point, Max had had little to eat or drink for nearly two days. Lehman recognized that he was dehydrated and hungry, so she took him to the AM/PM in Glendale and got him something to eat and drink.
It was there that Metro Officer Mark Harding came into contact with Max. Concerned immediately about his health, Harding took Max to the Logandale Quick Care where the resident Physician’s Assistant Andy Rose examined him briefly and found that he was okay.
The overjoyed family was notified and came immediately to the Quick Care to take Max home, Harding said.
“They were pretty happy to see him, and I think he was very happy to be back with them,” Harding said.
Harding added that situations like this make him truly appreciate the community where he lives and serves. “It was just another instance of the great people of this community looking out for each other,” he said. “Families that came out to help a family that they didn’t even know; and especially the community effort of looking out for our kids – it is really amazing. And you just don’t see that kind of thing everywhere out there.”
Jeanette was grateful for all of the efforts that were made to reunite Max to the family.
“We are so thankful to be embraced and welcomed into this beautiful community of Moapa Valley,” she said. “In total, 600 volunteers and community members came out and were searching for our son. There was not anywhere in this town that you could go that was not full of people looking for Max. Drones, horses, cars, trucks, bikes; you name it was being used to find him.”
“We thank all of you for everything you have done for us,” Jeanette added, addressing the community. “Most of all we feel so lucky to be embraced by all of you. We look forward to getting to know all of you and to raising our children in true Pirate Pride.”