A Jersey City girl believed to have run from a center for troubled youth in Newark was safely returned late Sunday afternoon.
At roughly 5 p.m. Sunday, Brittany Navarro, 14, emerged from a Newark police car at 284 Broadway, the headquarters of Youth Consultant Service (YCS). YCS is the state's largest provider of services for troubled youth.
Navarro had been missing from the residential group home since Thursday night when she broke off from a group of friends at Branch Brook Park at about 11:45 p.m. A search effort was conducted by authorities from the Essex County Sheriff's Department, Newark Police and Navarro's family.
The girl approached the steps of the Gothic-styled building wearing a yellow top and jeans and appeared to be in good spirits. She was greeted by a group of friends who were seen hugging the teen. At the time of her disappearance, she had been wearing a pink top with blue jeans.
Newark Police spokesman Sgt. Todd McClendon said Navarro was recognized by a resident on the 200 block of Court Street. The resident held Navarro until Newark police arrived at 4 p.m., McClendon said. She was unharmed.
A representative of YCS declined to answer questions on scene. It's unclear exactly what transpired to prompt her disappearance, but her stepmother Maria Navarro said she believes a friend of the girl recently moved into Newark from Jersey City and she had been staying there since Thursday night.
The juvenile is expected to be released to the custody of her father, Victor, McClendon said.
This report was last updated at 8:35 p.m. Sunday to include statements from Newark Police.
Previous coverage, first published Saturday at 12:43 p.m. and updated at 3:31 p.m. Saturday:
A Jersey City family is pleading for the safe return of their 14-year-old daughter who went missing in Branch Brook Park in Newark late Thursday night.
Brittany Michelle Navarro was last seen at the bridge in the park with three fellow housemates of a YCS residential group home in Newark. She was reportedly wearing a pink dress and navy blue leggings and sneakers.
According to Victor Navarro, Brittany's father, she was last spotted at 11:45 p.m. She's believed to have been climbing down a fire escape in the center of the park, then breaking away from the other girls.
Brittany has not been seen or heard from since.
"This never happened before," Victor said Saturday morning. "She never left the house and stood out like that. This is the very first time for something like this."
The Essex County Sheriff's Department confirmed the agency is aware of Navarro's disappearance. A spokesman said they've been working with Newark Police in searching the park and posting flyers. He referred questions to the , which did not immediately return requests for comment.
Thus far, those efforts have not led to Brittany, who stands approximately 5'2" and weighs about 90 lbs.
"The amber alert was not issued because they say she is a runaway," Victor Navarro said. "They don't believe she was abducted or kidnapped."
Carmen Correa said her niece Brittany spoke of leaving the center a few weeks prior with plans of returning to her home, NJ.com reported.
Victor Navarro was skeptical his daughter would leave the program without contacting anyone. The family has reached out to all of her associates, he said, but they've reported no contact with Brittany. She does not have a cell phone, as it's forbidden by the program, he said.
YCS is the state's largest provider of services for kids with emotional and behavioral problems, serving about 1,500 kids in New Jersey. Brittany, who according to her father has ADHD, has been residing at one of its Newark residential facilities. She is scheduled to remain at YCS through December, Victor said.
YCS did not respond to messages left Saturday morning.
"She may have left the program but I think by by now she would have contacted somebody or ended up going back to the program," Victor told Patch. "The bridge [in the park] she left was from Newark. She's from Jersey City...she knows nothing about Newark."
The family called national organizations, including Gema Runaway Squad and The National Center for Missing Children in the hope Brittany emerges soon.
"If it's a matter of her being worried she's in trouble, it's not like that," Victor said. "We just want her home safe and sound. We love her."