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'Come home please': Billings family pleads for runaway daughter to return home

Nevaeh Raye Denny, 16, is just one of 94 runaway reports made in 2024
Nevaeh Raye Denny
Posted at 7:06 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-20 11:14:34-04

BILLINGS — In the Billings area, 15 kids from the ages of 13 to 16 were listed as of Tuesday on the Montana Department of Justice's Missing Persons Database.

Nevaeh Raye Denny, 16, has been on that list since Feb. 29. She's one of hundreds of runaways reported who families are hoping to retrieve, but police say investigations take time to resolve, and often the child returns home on their own.

Nevaeh Raye Denny

“Just come home, please,” Nevaeh's mother, Carmen Moreno, said on Tuesday. “I want her to know that I love her with all my heart, I’m sorry for any differences that we may have had in the past but there is nothing too great that we can’t work through together.”

Moreno said on Feb. 28, she argued with her daughter. Her daughter was intoxicated and tried to leave the home. The family called the police and Denny was taken to the hospital to get sober. The next day, she went to school and never returned home.

Nevaeh Raye Denny
Nevaeh Raye Denny

Denny has gotten a new tattoo of a Playboy bunny since leaving home, but her mother doesn't know which forearm it is on. She also has a nose piercing and belly button piercing.

“Her hair is brown with a reddish tint. When she really smiles she has fangs and she tries not to show them but if she opens her mouth you can see them and they’re very distinguishable and she’s just, I don’t even know maybe she’s changed her hair,” Moreno said.

Moreno is worried for her daughter's safety. The family knows she's staying at a Laurel home and who she is likely with, Denny's best friend and a 19-year-old boy, but because Denny left on her own she is considered a runaway, and police would need probable cause to get a search warrant to enter the home.

Moreno said she has received messages from her daughter's social media accounts, but fears those messages aren't from her. She has also gotten a message from Denny's friend saying that Denny is on drugs. This has only increased Moreno's worries.

Nevaeh Raye Denny
Nevaeh Raye Denny

“The only thing that’s going to take them into a home is a warrant to look for a body? Instead of proof to pick up a child, and that’s a broken system,” Moreno said.

This year, there have been 94 runaways reported to police.

“We take runaways every day,” Billings Police Lt. Matt Lennick said on Monday.

In 2020, there were 419 runaway reports. In 2021, there were 397, and 357 in 2022. There were 456 runaway reports in 2023.

More often than not, the reports are for habitual runaways. So, not necessarily 94 individual kids have run away this year, but police have taken 94 reports.

“A lot of times they have somewhere to go,” Lennick said.

According to Lennick, the runaways are entered into the system just like any other person who goes missing. The big difference is that the case stays with the patrol instead of going to a detective.

“It gets entered technically as a missing (person). It’s the same. Like if any other agency in the country deals with this juvenile, it's going to come up that they are a runaway they have to hold onto them,” Lennick said.

Moreno said it feels like Billings police and the Laurel Police Department aren't taking her daughter's case seriously. She has also tried to contact Child Protective Services, but they couldn't help.

“At what point, what information is enough to make them look?” Moreno said.