At 11 a.m. Friday morning, Lorene Turner got the call: Her granddaughter, Jakadrien Turner, who had run away from her Oak Cliff home and her life as a student at Kimball High School, was on a flight home from Colombia. Eleven hours later, the strong but exhausted grandmother finally walked down the international arrivals chute at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport next to the 15-year-old she hadn't hugged in more than a year.
The teen runaway had traveled from Dallas to New Orleans before arriving in Houston, where she was arrested for shoplifting and deported to Colombia under a false identity she provided police. The journey was a long one, and while last night marks the end of her saga as a runaway, most of what happened after April 2010, when she left Oak Cliff, remains a long list of questions.
After more than two hours' worth of immigration procedures and questioning by authorities following her arrival at about 7 p.m. on a Delta flight from Atlanta, Jakadrien, her mother Johnisa Turner and Lorene, flanked by armed guards and their lawyer Ray Jackson, slowly walked from the international arrivals gate to the parking lot as reporters swarmed and news cameras rolled. All three appeared to alternate between choking back tears and suppressing smiles that occasionally cracked through. They held hands but gave little indication of the emotion evoked by the homecoming.
Jackson, Turner's attorney, was the only one who addressed the crowd of reporters gathered at the terminal. "She's happy to be home," he said, but wouldn't offer much more, saying that the family would comment in a few days, after they've rested. "We want to respect that it's been a long flight and a long day."
Lorene carried the maternity book What to Expect When You're Expecting as she walked next to her granddaughter, who appeared healthy with a stomach slightly rounder than in photos from months prior. Earlier yesterday afternoon, Lorene said she would feel the same way towards her great-grandchild as she does towards Jakadrien. "That's another person to love," she said.
The story of Jakadrien's runaway, deportation and homecoming picked up speed throughout the week, leaving a wake of unanswered questions, many with troubling implications. WFAA's Rebecca Lopez broke the news on Tuesday night in a story that detailed the steps that led to the teen's deportation and discovery. In Houston, she gave police a fake name -- Tika Cortez -- the name of an illegal immigrant from Colombia who had an outstanding warrant for her arrest. [It's still unclear why Jakadrien chose the name. CNN reports, "According to U.S. immigration officials, they'd never come across anyone by the name Tika Cortez. Her fingerprints did not match anyone in law enforcement databases, nor was there a match for the name Jakadrien Turner."]
The exact missteps are similarly unclear, but ICE deported Jakadrien to Colombia under the assumed identity. While in Colombia, Jakadrien had a Cuban boyfriend, according to her Facebook page, and she became pregnant.
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By combing through information on Facebook and working with police, Lorene located Jakadrien in Colombia and sparked the effort that brought her granddaughter home Friday night. "I'm real nosy ... I'm a beautician," Lorene told us not long after she received the news that Jakadrien was coming home. Her beauty salon, which also serves as a notary, is coated inside and out in hot-pink paint. with the "beauty salon" signage painted in black. A few spots of peeling paint and broken-in salon chairs reveal the character of the well-kept shop she opened in the early 1970s.
The grandmother who remembers Jakadrien always confiding in her couldn't imagine how this could happen to her "sweet, smart" granddaughter who hadn't started dating, had never been on a plane -- and never learned Spanish. She speculates that the teen's initial runaway plan was sidelined by human traffickers who enacted the elaborate scheme that landed Jakadrien passage between international borders and Colombian citizenship. Lorene says Jakadrien ran away with a group of "fast" girls from high school who posted videos online of themselves dancing in ways that made her think, "They're gonna knock their wombs out of place."
No matter what, Lorene says, she's not mad. "Everyone's bad when they're little," she says. "Thank the Lord" she's safe and alive.
Jackadrien's reasons for running away are as unclear as the procedural loopholes or elaborate plans that allowed her to move to Colombia. While her coming home is a momentary resolution, there is much more to discover: whether she's a victim of trafficking, why she gave police that particular assumed name and whether anyone else provided her with that name, what her life was like in Colombia, who fathered her unborn child, and how she's holding up after such a year. Though last night's homecoming felt like a resolution; it's also a new beginning for Jackadrien and a reason to keep asking: How could this happen?