May 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

Two months shy of 12, young girl slips away from guardian's home

Tavia Bentley was about two months shy of her 12th birthday when she left her guardian's home in Detroit on a February morning last year.

She was placed there after her biological father claimed Tavia was being abused while in the care of her mother, Katrina Young. She was in the home less than three weeks when the girl — wearing white clothes and matching boots — slipped out.

After filing a missing persons report and being investigated by authorities, Young was cleared of wrongdoing. The biological father, meanwhile, was jailed briefly jailed in Oakland County for violating conditions of his bond.

In November, Tavia called her mother's cell phone from a blocked number that Auburn Hills police later traced to a relative of her father in Detroit, Young said.

The girl refused to reveal her whereabouts and did not mention her father, but "I do believe she is with him — and if not directly in his custody, not too far from his custody with an immediate relative or someone he considers a close friend," she said.

In their brief phone conversation, Tavia would not say if she was in school, but did say she had books. She also told her mother she was being treated well.

"In my heart, she's still in danger," Young said. "She's not where she belongs. That's the way it's going to be until I find her."

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website lists Tavia as an endangered runaway. She's one of more than 60 missing from Michigan named there.

Detroit Police Lt. Dale Greenleaf said her case remains open.

For now, Young keeps her daughter's room at their west side home like it was before she left: a science project on a solar system from her days at the Nataki Talibah charter school, posters of teen pop star Justin Bieber plastered on the walls.

"Hopefully my daughter will come home to me," she said. "That's my biggest want right now … my biggest want and need."

mhicks@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2117