Girl, 10, Found With Family’s Car After Missing For 27 Hours

A 10-year-old girl is safe, a day after police say she took the family car and drove it around the Twin Cities, reports Reg Chapman (1:57). WCCO 4 News At 5 - March 31, 2021

Video Transcript

- A 10-year-old girl is safe a day after police say she took the family car and drove it around the Twin Cities. It started in Fridley. Over a one-day period, Ava Whitfield was seen on surveillance cameras in Ramsey and Eden Prairie. Police found her in Maple Grove this morning. Reg Chapman explains how they found her and spoke with her mother.

REG CHAPMAN: A relieved Jocelyn Whitfield is still trying to process the past 27 hours.

JOCELYN WHITFIELD: A lot of emotions right now. I'm traumatized, and I'm overwhelmed and just kind of in shock still. So--

REG CHAPMAN: She was picking up her car in the parking lot of the Walgreen's in Maple Grove after it had been driven across the Metro by her 10-year-old daughter Ava.

JOCELYN WHITFIELD: Independent, you know, she's an only child. She's in that, like, pre-teen stage. She's almost 11. All of the evidence, you know, shows that she was alone, and she was.

REG CHAPMAN: Mom called police when she discovered her car, credit cards, and daughter missing from the family home in Fridley Tuesday morning. Surveillance cameras in Ramsey and Eden Prairie captured the young driver as she made her way across the Metro. So how does a 10-year-old learn to drive?

NICK KNAEBLE: Our investigation did show that she had searched on YouTube how to drive-- how to learn how to drive a vehicle on public roadways or something along those lines.

REG CHAPMAN: Mom, giving up information about where her credit cards were being used, led police to Walmart and eventually the Walgreens in Maple Grove. Ava was reunited with her mother, but never said why she did what she did.

JOCELYN WHITFIELD: And she hasn't talked to the police either. So the next steps are, you know, getting her some professional help, obviously, and just continue to support her with love.

REG CHAPMAN: The car does have some nicks, scratches, and dings.

So what was inside the car when you looked in there?

JOCELYN WHITFIELD: Just random stuff, snacks, clothes, finger-nail polish everywhere.

REG CHAPMAN: This mom is happy no one was hurt and grateful for the work of every police agency involved.

JOCELYN WHITFIELD: I truly want to thank them all.

REG CHAPMAN: Reg Chapman, WCCO 4 News.

- Police say the family will deal with the child, but they did offer assistance to the family if they need it.