New Mexico authorities searching for nine teens who went missing from a ranch for troubled youth and the owner of the ranch said today at least four of the teens are believed to have gotten back to their parents, but the Amber Alert issued for the others was still in effect.
New Mexico state police and social services, investigating allegations of abuse at the Tierra Blanca Ranch, executed a search warrant there Friday and were prepared to take the nine teens into state custody.
But when police arrived, the teens were missing along with Scott Chandler, the ranch's owner, according to ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in Albequerque, N.M.
The police issued an Ambert Alert for the teens, all of whom are between the ages of 13 and 17, and declared that Chandler was a person of interest in their disappearance.
Police reported reported earlier today that two of the missing teens had returned to their familys' homes, Ryan Sibbett and Michael Rozell, and had been removed from the Amber Alert.
Then this evening they said two others -- David Easter and Charlie Lamb -- were in the custody of their parents and had been removed from the Amber Alert list.
The Tierra Blanca Ranch and Chandler were the subject of an abuse investigation by the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department. According to KOAT-TV, state investigators were looking into allegations that teenage boys were beaten and forced to wear leg shackles and handcuffs for minor infractions of ranch rules.
On Tuesday, Chandler filed suit against the state, charging that the Children Youth and Families Department officials illegally interviewed students and threatened parents with abuse charges.
"[Children Youth and Families Department] comes in and decides to conduct an investigation in a way that was very upsetting," Chandler said at a press conference on Tuesday. "We had asked for sensitivity."
On Friday, after police did not find the teens or chandler, Tierra Blanca Ranch attorney Pete Domenici Jr. said in a statement that the boys had been "on a previously scheduled activity away from the ranch for several days. They are safe and have already been picked up by their parents, or their parents are en route to pick them up."
The Amber Alert was issued after Domenici released his statement.
ABC News' calls to Domenici today were not immediately returned.
In spite of Domenici's statement that the teens were on a trip, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said the state was taking their disappearance very seriously.
"All resources are being put into this right now, we have to locate them," Martinez said. "When you suddenly show up to the place and everybody is gone, it's a huge concern to us."
Yoland Deines, head of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, said the state wanted to talk to teens as soon as they are located for the investigation and to ensure their wellbeing.
"We want to be able to interview each of the children to make a determination about how they were treated while they were at the ranch. We need to make sure that we get a full medical exam for the children," Deines said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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