He left Sheridan, Wyo., a week ago, scouring almost 800 miles of interstate in his white Chevy Corsica, posting 600 fliers in towns along the road, sleeping in campgrounds.
Don Proctor is looking for his son’s girlfriend, Amber Lynn Valero, who disappeared more than a month ago.
The 15-year-old girl planned to drive straight to Isaiah Proctor. Her family had moved to Spokane from Sheridan in July.
Don Proctor doesn’t know the girl very well. But he hopes to find Amber - he’s a one-man search party armed with a briefcase stuffed with fliers and pictures of Amber.
It’s for his son. “The main reason I got involved was my son was so upset,” said Proctor, 51. “His question to me was, ‘Don’t big people care?”’
Amber stole her parents’ car, a light blue 1980 Chrysler New Yorker with Wyoming plates of 3-495 A/M, about 2:30 a.m. Aug. 16. She grabbed some of her jewelry and drove with her brother to a bank, pocketing $100 with her parents’ bank card. She dropped her younger brother back at home and left.
A half-hour later, Amber’s brother and sister woke their mother, who called her husband, a food-service manager who was training his replacement in Sheridan.
Tony Valero, 45, sat near the Sheridan exit off Interstate 90 for hours, looking for his daughter.
She never arrived. The car hasn’t been found. No one’s heard from her. There have been scattered sightings, none verified.
“We want her home,” Valero said. “It’s been quite an emotional drain.”
Spokane police are concerned, saying the case stands out from other runaways. Police filed a report with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which sent out fliers with Amber’s description to authorities in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming.
“It just raised red flags for us,” Lt. Jerry Oien said. “It’s a little different slant on the normal runaway.”
It’s different because Amber had a planned destination. Her parents’ car hasn’t been found. She has no obvious source of money, after her parents canceled their bank card.
Proctor arrived in Spokane on Wednesday afternoon, looking for clues and talking to Amber’s family. He planned to leave town this morning at 3 a.m. to trace Amber’s path.
Proctor’s a single father who raised four children. His fiancee is watching his furniture business, his adult-care facility and his family while he searches for Amber.
“Ever since I’ve known, he took care of me,” said Isaiah, 14. “I think he’s the best dad I could have. If I have a problem, he tries to resolve it for me.”
Isaiah met Amber in eighth grade about 10 months ago, just after his family moved from Denver to Sheridan.
The teenagers started dating almost immediately. After Amber moved to Spokane, they talked every night. They wrote letters. Isaiah last talked to Amber the night before she took her parents’ car, more than a month ago.
It’s been a difficult month.
“One day I went to school and I just started thinking about her,” Isaiah said. “Fourth period, I just started crying. The principal sent me home, said I was too bad off to go to school.”
Only a few people have nibbled at Proctor’s fliers. One person said a girl resembling Amber was driving a 1978 Grand Prix, primer gray with temporary stickers, through Billings, Mont.
“I did look for the car,” Proctor said. “I couldn’t find it anywhere, in the whole city.”
As he walked down the street of a small Montana town, a man said he saw Amber eating at a restaurant that morning in Laurel, 50 miles away. Proctor raced back to Laurel, talked to the waitress, followed her lead to a motel where it ended in memories of a couple of teenage girls, one of whom looked like Amber. That was it.
A deputy called and said a Conoco worker near Livingston, Mont., saw Amber buy a soft drink the day before. Proctor plans to check that lead on his way back to Sheridan.
The Valeros have heard about sightings as well: Amber supposedly sitting in front of the Bon Marche in downtown Spokane a week ago; parked beneath Lookout Pass the next day; in Frenchtown, Mont., Saturday night.
Tony Valero and his wife, Sharon, drove to Missoula last Friday, stopping at every town along the way, searching lots filled with impounded cars and talking to law enforcement.
“We’re at a loss right now,” said Tony Valero, who can’t take much time off his new job to search. “All sorts of speculations go through our minds. Nothing makes sense, because we know her goal was to get with her boyfriend.”
There has to be some clue, Proctor reasons. There has to be someone who saw Amber, with her long blond hair, green eyes and shy smile. She’s 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighs about 125 pounds. She has a black mole on her lower back. She’s muscular.
“There’s got to be something out there somewhere,” said Proctor, taking his glasses off to rub his eyes. “My son’s real worried.”
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