Police: 3 missing Topeka children found safe

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Police in Topeka say three young siblings have been found unharmed along a trail about 20 hours after their parents reported them missing.

Capt. Jerry Stanley says in a statement the two girls and their brother were found “safe but hungry” around 7:15 p.m. Thursday, playing in a creek along the Shunga Trail.

That’s just a few miles from the home where their parents reported them missing shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Stanley says a citizen spotted the children and called police.

The children were identified as 13-year-old Stephanie Witten, 12-year-old Seth Witten and 10-year-old Michelle Witten.

Police had said throughout the search they did not suspect foul play. No Amber Alerts were issued.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Three young siblings who disappeared from their home in western Topeka were not suspected to be the victims of foul play, but authorities worried about their well-being as temperatures reached the 90s on Thursday.

No Amber Alert was issued for 13-year-old Stephanie Witten, 12-year-old Seth Witten and 10-year-old Michelle Witten after their parents reported them missing around 11 p.m. Wednesday. Topeka police Capt. Jerry Stanley said the search by multiple agencies remained confined late Thursday afternoon to the city limits.

He said nearly a dozen tips called into law enforcement matched the description of the three children – the two girls with waist-length hair and their brother with short, dark hair.

Authorities don’t believe foul play is involved based on interviews with the parents, he said.

“There are some background issues with the family, but it doesn’t lead to anything criminal,” Stanley said, declining to elaborate.

Stanley said the biggest concern was whether the three children were getting food and water in the intense heat.

“We don’t want them out there,” he said.

The children’s mother, Kathy Witten, told The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/147NZc3) she left them home with her husband, William, on Wednesday evening while she ran an errand with the couple’s 2-year-old daughter and her mother. Witten said her husband, William, later left the three children home alone when he went to a gym to work out, and they were gone when the parents arrived back home.

The three children, who are biological siblings, were adopted by the Wittens in 2007.

Without going into detail, she said her oldest daughter had been involved in a similar incident about a year ago. But the younger two hadn’t gone missing before Wednesday night.

“I’m just not sure how she got the younger ones out,” Witten said. “We hadn’t been fighting. There were no blow-ups. Just normal, daily stuff.”

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