The search continues for a missing Mt. Airy teenager. Aaron Franklin was reported missing by his parents three weeks ago.
Franklin, now 18, was last seen by family Thurs, Jan. 13. His father Hakim Franklin and his stepmother Elena say Aaron left the house between 3-4 p.m. that afteroon after casually saying goodbye to his older sister.
“Like he would be back in an hour or so,” said the father.
But later that evening, after Hakim and Elena came home from work, Aaron still hadn’t returned home. When they checked his room, they knew something was amiss.
“He had taken some items out his room – his tooth brush, his mouthwash, his deodorant. We discovered that he took some clothes.
“We kind of got the idea that he ran away,” said Hakim.
Adjusting to a new school
Though not completely certain, Franklin’s parents said his decision might have stemmed from his ongoing struggle to adjust academically to a new school. Aaron, a senior at Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote, previously attended Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia before it closed last June.
In particular, Hakim said his son was having trouble balancing seven classes at once. For the first three years of his high school career, he had block scheduling, where he took six to eight classes over two semesters. It was an unfamiliar situation for the former honor roll student.
“He had almost given up somewhat in school,” said Hakim, who said his son’s mood had also taken a downward dip.
Still his parents were confused by their son’s disappearance. He had never fled from home before and recently his grades had started to improve. And socially, everything was stable.
“Aaron is the type of kid who makes friends with just about anybody and is very friendly with everyone,” said Hakim. “At McDevitt all the teachers always said they really liked him and seemed to be a hard-working intelligent young man.”
They decided to wait a bit more before taking further action.
Filing a missing persons report
But by 9 p.m., when Franklin still hadn’t returned, Hakim called the police to file a missing persons report.
That task, both he and his wife said, wasn’t easy.
“By midnight no car had come out so I went out and drove to the 14th Police District and when I got there I was told I couldn’t file a missing persons report at a precinct. An officer had to take the report at my home,” said Hakim.
About a half-hour later, an officer showed. Elena said even then it was tough to file the report. She recalls the officer asking three times if the couple wanted to go through with the paperwork.
“The whole time he was sort of hemming and hawing about filling it out,” she said.
And when the two checked in with the Northwest Detectives Division the following day, they found out the report had never made it there.
The two then drove back to the 14th Police District where they said an officer reluctantly wrote up a second report now a full 24 hours after their son had gone missing. They had spent most of the day at McDevitt High School talking to staff and interviewing some of Franklin’s friends.
“It made a very bad situation even worse,” said Hakim “We should have been focusing our efforts on finding our son and figuring out what happened with him.”
Hakim said the police have not turned up any terribly helpful information since the report was filed.
Officials with NWDD said the case is still active and an investigation is ongoing. Detective Collins, who’s been assigned the case, confirmed Franklin as a runaway.
Getting the word out
Elena said the couple has tried a number of tactics to track down their son from driving around the city to leaving messages for him on Facebook. The couple has also posted flyers throughout the city and had every parent emailed at McDevitt.
“We’re keeping in touch with them as much as we can,” said Principal Rosemary Naab. “He’s a great young man and we want him to finish out his year with us and be able to graduate.”
The Cheltenham Township Police are also keeping their eyes open, she said.
The parents have not been able to call his cell phone because his had broken just days before he left. Hakim said they were supposed to get a new one that night.
So far, nothing really significant has come from the search.
Hakim and Elena said they think their son is somewhere in the area, though they did check with his birth mother who lives in the Georgia area to see if he made any contact with her. Franklin has a car but the parents have the keys.
Elena said there have also been a few supposed sightings in Mt. Airy, one as recently as last week.
“But when you ask people to describe him their description is taller or shorter,” she said.
According to the flyers, Franklin, an African-American, is 5’6” and 150 lbs. He has brown hair, brown eyes and has a scar under his chin and light spots on his neck.
The family is considering a private investigator, just so at the very least they can find him and know he’s safe.
“Even if he doesn’t want to come home we want to know he’s OK. We can work the rest out later,” said Hakim.
Anyone with information about Aaron’s whereabouts can contact The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. They can also call 911 or the police.