A Live Oak teen has been missing since May. Law enforcement has classified her as a “runaway” but the family and some members of the community believe the teen is in danger and are working to bring her home.
Michelle Torres, 16, was last seen at her home in Live Oak on May 8, according to the family. Michelle Torres’ mother, Rosalva, said she is scared because her daughter has never had a job, doesn’t have a driver’s license, and is five feet, five inches tall.
“No one has seen her, no one has heard anything,” Rosalva Torres told the Appeal on Friday.
Her son and Michelle Torres’ younger brother, Miguel Torres, 14, translated for his mother.
“It’s been difficult,” Miguel Torres said. “We have to keep the hope alive.”
Rosalva Torres said she will continue to put the word out in the hopes that someone who has seen Michelle Torres will reach out to law enforcement.
“She’s never really been without us for long periods of time,” Rosalva Torres said.
The family believes Michelle Torres is in danger and said anyone with information about her whereabouts should call the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office even if they report anonymously. Rosalva Torres said she’s scared that her daughter might be taken advantage of by individuals looking to exploit the teenager.
“It can happen to anyone else,” Rosalva Torres said.
Sutter County Undersheriff Scott Smallwood said Michelle Torres is considered a runaway by the department because she is choosing to be missing. Smallwood said that in 2020 Michelle Torres ran away when her mom caught her smoking cannabis. In that case, he said, she was gone for approximately two to three months.
Smallwood said the circumstances were the same in this case. He said she was last seen by a friend in Yuba City and that every time she’s been contacted she has run away. Missing persons cases are opened when someone is missing with suspicious circumstances, he said.
“There isn’t anything suspicious about this because she is choosing to run away,” Smallwood said in an email. “She has been seen and runs when attempted to contact.”
He said the sheriff’s office will attempt to apprehend Michelle Torres if she is seen but deputies will not get physical nor use any force to get her back to her family.
“If she is seen we document and advise the parents,” Smallwood said. “We have no concerns for her safety at this time.”
On Friday, Smallwood said the family advised the sheriff’s office of Michelle Torres’ whereabouts on Thursday but deputies were unable to make contact. They went to a residence but there was no answer at the door.
Ray Leno, of Oroville, works with families of missing persons and has been putting the word out on social media about Michelle Torres’ disappearance. He said anyone who has been missing for more than a couple of weeks who is under 18 is in danger. He disagreed with law enforcement’s assessment of the situation.
“It’s so naive and negligent,” Leno said. “It hurts my feelings.”
Flyers have been put up around town and marches have taken place with family and friends asking people who potentially know where Michelle Torres is to come forward. Leno said he will be reaching out to nonprofits for assistance and will continue to put the word out. In terms of what danger Michelle Torres could be in, Leno fears the worst.
“At this point we don’t know,” Leno said.
Anyone with information about Michelle Torres should contact the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office at 822-7307.