Mesa, Arizona (3TV/CBS 5) — Two teenage girls who ran away from a Mesa orphanage were found dead in a water collection pool near Superstition Springs Center on Saturday night. Police say they don’t know how the couple died but suspect foul play.
Mesa police say a man was walking his dog near South Avenue and Superstition Springs Boulevard around 6 p.m. Saturday when he saw what he thought was a mannequin in the water. The officers responded and confirmed that it was a body and then found a second body about 10 feet away. They have since been identified as 17-year-old Sitlally Avelar and 15-year-old Camryn Meyers. Police say, based on the evidence, they were in the water for a while before they were found. The medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death, which may take several weeks.
Avelar and Meyers were listed as fugitives from a nearby shelter in Mesa and were reported missing on January 7, two weeks before their bodies were found. This group home is one of several operated by Powerhouse Youth Facility Inc., which has been in operation for 12 years. According to online records, the Mesa group home has only been open since last October.
On Wednesday afternoon, a Powerhouse attorney responded to the Arizona family about the investigation. Brad Miller says Avelar and Meyers used to leave group homes and were overheard talking about leaving the Powerhouse on Jan. 6. He says the staff tried to convince them to stay, but they left the next day. He says staff then followed protocols and notified agencies, including Mesa police and the Arizona Department of Children’s Safety (DCS). The staff reportedly met with Mesa police again on January 10, when they had yet to return. Miller added that Powerhouse is licensed by the state and legally cannot force children to stay.
Cathy Catalfo has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and was shocked to hear the news. “They have so much life ahead of them; they have so much opportunity, growth and learning,” she said. “It’s disappointing, you expect more.” Other neighbors say the group home used to be a nursing home. However, recently, according to Catalfo, police activity has increased in the house. “There was a lot of traffic in general, a lot of cops came over the last couple of weeks,” she said. “I guess the first thing that comes to my mind is who made you leave? What made you leave the safe environment?”
Anyone with information about the investigation is asked to call the Mesa Police Non-Emergency Line at (480) 644-2211.