Missing Indiana teen found alive in creek bed

Indiana teen found safe after missing for 20 hours
"X" shows where she went missing, red road is where she was found
"X" shows where she went missing, red road is where she was found
Crews search the area where Sonya Balsley went missing
Crews search the area where Sonya Balsley went missing

DEARBORN COUNTY, IN (FOX19) - Sonya Balsley, the Dearborn County teen who went missing earlier this month, has been removed from her home by the Indiana Department of Child Services. Investigators say four to five guns were also taken from the home as a safety precaution.

Dearborn County Special Crimes Unit Detectives interviewed Sonya Balsley at the hospital Tuesday before she was released. They say she stated she was taken against her will from her backyard by two men.

"Sonya rested pretty good last night. She's quite frazzled, but she's doing fine," Sonya's father Erik Balsley said Wednesday.

Erik Balsley says his adopted daughter has kept fairly quiet about the details of what happened.

"Right now she's just really trying to get over the whole thing and not really talking about all of it too much," he said. "At this point I think it's best for her sanity to let her regain herself and her own thoughts before we force her into talking with us."

Erik and his wife Penny continue to believe their family was targeted.

"There's suspicion that it could be hate crime related because Sonya's African American. There's signs that some of it could be harassment," Erik said. "There's a lot of theories out there."

Wednesday he thanked the men and women who helped to look for Sonya.

"Thank you so much to all of the volunteers that came out to help and to my brothers at the Bright Fire Department for everything they did and all of the surrounding departments," Erik said holding back tears. "Without you guys she would not be here today."

He also made a plea for justice.

"The animals that took her and whatever else happened … we need to catch the animals that did this," Erik said.

Authorities are not releasing a description of the alleged abductors at this time. Detectives are continuing their investigation and the Dearborn County Sheriff's Department will be increasing patrols in the area.

Sonya Balsley, 16, had been last seen in the yard of her residence on Vineyard Court in Bright between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 3.

Balsley was found near a creek bed off Sneakville Road in Bright, Indiana just after 2 p.m. Tuesday. Officers say Sonya was alert and speaking to EMTs when they found her. An investigator says the location where she was found is between a mile and a mile and a half away from the girl's house by foot.

Her mother, Penny Balsley, says the family has taken in at-risk children in the past, and she believes one of the boys they had adopted could be responsible. She believes he may have been threatening the family. That young man was not living with the Balsleys at the time of the incident. The Balsleys have eight adopted children including Sonya.

Penny says they found the word 'woods' written in condensation on one of the windows at the home following the teen's disappearance.

Penny said her daughter went into the back yard Monday night to put bleach pucks in the pool and then disappeared.

"She was gone," Penny said. "She just vanished."

"I ran through the garage and I'm screaming 'Sonya'. No response," Penny recalled. "And by this time, the dog was jumping and running and barking back and forth to that corner gate."

"The last thing we know is that she was seen in the back yard [Monday] afternoon," Dearborn County Detective Shane McHenry told FOX19. "We got the call about six thirty last night when our deputies were dispatched to this location."

Sonya's mom was convinced she had been taken.

"I don't think it was past five minutes. I know it wasn't," Penny Balsley said. "They must have been back there waiting."

"For about two months now we've been getting some harassments and some threats and we just thought it was kids' play," father Erik Balsley said.

"They had been writing since it's been raining in the condensation at night," Mrs. Balsley said. "Like they wrote a couple of nights ago 'gonna kill you', or 'kill you' and you can still see that up there. But then they wrote 'woods' and that was not there."

"I am familiar with the threats and the reports that have been made," Detective McHenry said. "Unfortunately we've not been able to pinpoint any particular person. Or come up with a particular suspect."

Neighbors who spoke with FOX19 say they never witnessed any of the harassment alleged by the Balsley family.

While they took the concerns into consideration, officers kept their options open Tuesday.

"We don't want to be narrow-minded and zero in on something and that not be the case and we've wasted all of that time," McHenry explained.

Police spent the day Tuesday searching the property, knocking on neighbors' doors. They also called in air support from Hamilton County.

Investigators say the teen has special needs and that it has been difficult to get a full statement regarding what transpired between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon.

Sonya was removed from the family home by the Indiana Department of Child Services on Thursday. On Friday, investigators said they are continuing to look into every allegation, but that they have been unable to substantiate claims of an abduction.

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