Two juveniles who left a residential treatment center in Mills County last week and abandoned a stolen all-terrain vehicle near Brownwood Monday morning were located just after dark Monday evening in Albany in Shackelford County.
Conversations on the scanner indicated the two had been found, but no other information about how they were apprehended was available by 8 p.m. Monday. Sheriff's Capt. Tony Aaron relayed in a text message that a car, which law enforcement believe was stolen in Brown County, was found with the juveniles.
A dispatcher radioed to officers “that would be the stolen vehicle” after an inquiry giving license plate and vin number of the vehicle was given.
The two are suspected of breaking into the Country Stop store early Monday morning and taking food, Aaron said. Law enforcement officials and a helicopter searched without success for the pair in the area of Highway 279 and FM 2632, where they abandoned the ATV.
Mills County Sheriff's officials identified the two as Matthew Wilkins, 16, and Brandon Cooper, 14.
The two left the New Horizons Ranch, just west of Goldthwaite, the evening of Oct. 8, New Horizons Executive Director Michael Redden said.
Mills County Sheriff's officials believe the pair stole an ATV that had a deer rifle from a deer stand shortly after leaving the ranch, Mills County sheriff's investigator Chris Green said. Lawmen recovered the ATV, which had run out of gas, on Saturday at the intersection of FM 45 and FM 574 in Mills County, Green said.
Investigators believe the pair broke into cabins at another deer stand, ate ice cream and drank wine, and took another ATV, Green said.
Brown County Sheriff's investigators believe the pair broke into the Country Stop store around 3:30 or 4 a.m. Monday. The intruders busted out a window, possibly by firing a shot, Aaron said.
Around 4:30 a.m., the pair ran the ATV off the road and into a fence near the intersection of Highway 279 and FM 2632, a few miles north of Brownwood.
Wade Thomason, who lives on property near the intersection, said his 21-year-old grandson, Justin Thomason, had been working on his pickup, installing a new thermostat. Justin decided to drive the pickup to see if it still overheated and pulled out onto Highway 279, heading south, Wade Thomason said. Justin saw the ATV coming toward him with no lights, and the two vehicles passed each other from the opposite direction.
Looking in the mirror, Justin saw the ATV's brake lights come on and thought it looked like the driver was going to turn the ATV onto Thomason property, Wade Thomason said. Justin turned around, and the ATV ran off the road, ran through one fence and stopped against another fence, Thomason said.
The pair fled on foot, and sheriff's deputies began setting up a perimeter, Aaron said.
Redden, the New Horizons executive director, said the facility where the boys had been receiving treatment is not a lockup. "Most of what we do here is through relationships," Redden said.
"We wish the very best for their safety. … I'm not sure what they've gotten into." Redden stressed that he is also concerned for the safety of the residents of communities where the youths are hiding. "We're certainly concerned for the safety of all the communities. Obviously this is a tough thing."