Experts join search for missing Selma teenager

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A team of two search experts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has joined forces with local law enforcement authorities as the hunt continues for a 17-year-old teenager who went missing more than a week ago.

The members of Team Adam are not identified, but generally are representative of retired federal, state or local law enforcement, said Bob Lowery, a spokesman for the center.

Based in Virginia, the center was established in 1984 as a private nonprofit organization to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation and help find missing children, among other things.

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The two team members arrived in Selma on Tuesday and met with family members of Tarasha Benjamin, said Angela Benjamin, a Selma City Council member and relative of the missing teenager.

“They have the expertise, so we are putting the search in their hands and in the hands of the Selma PD,” the council person said. “We (family and friends) will continue to take information and go door-to-door.”

Tarasha left home June 26 to visit the flea market. The gray truck she rode in was found abandoned early the following morning.

Nobody has heard from Tarasha since that Saturday, although the family has followed up on hundreds of leads since that day.

Experts from the Center and police have scoured the landscape in and around Selma, even employing helicopters in the process.

“We’re using everything we have access to,” said Selma police Detective Michael Harris.

Those resources include the expertise of the Team Adam members.

“We think of time as the enemy,” Lowery said as he explained the two-man team’s mission. “Someone out there knows what happened to this child. We need them to call.”

People can call the Center’s number at 1-800-THE-LOST.

“We get the information into the proper hands as quickly as possible,” Lowery said.

Other numbers to call include the Selma Police Department’s secret witness line at 874-2190 or Crimestoppers at 877-3530.

The Benjamin family has requested that any donations of supplies, food, water, snacks for searchers be coordinated through their family.

Those who wish to donate individually may drop off those offerings at 1029 Dawson Ave.

“No other address is approved by the family,” Angela Benjamin said.