By Bill Kirk
---- — LAWRENCE — An 11-year-old girl who ran away after getting into a fight with her mother yesterday afternoon has returned home following a massive police search on the south side of the city.
The girl, of Springfield Street and a fifth-grader at the Wetherbee School, was reported missing by her mother at 9:30 last night. She told police that her daughter left their home at around 5 p.m. after an argument.
Police began an investigation, and launched a massive search when the girl still failed to return home at around midnight.
Police Chief John Romero said officers were concerned for the girl's safety based on statements made by her mother and friends.
At 1 a.m., a command post was set up outside the girl's house. Police then broke the south side of the city into 9 grid areas, concentrating on five potential hot spots, including the boat ramp, the south Lawrence East School, South Common, train station, and all river banks.
With help from state police and sheriffs' deputies, a cruiser was assigned to each area. The areas were heavily patrolled throughout the night and into the early morning hours. The command post was still up as of 7:30 this morning but was broken down and removed by around 8 a.m. after the girl returned home at about 7:45 a.m.
Police said the girl was at a friend's on the same block just six houses away from her home, and may have been watching the search throughout the night.
She was taken to Lawrence General Hospital for an evaluation. The state Department of Children and Families is being notified of the incident.
During this morning's search, police spoke with several of the girl's friends who reported seeing her in a large group of kids hanging out at Shawsheen Park, located behind the high school and South Lawrence East Middle School, near the Shawsheen River and I-495.
"You've got to err on the side of caution," Romero said, referring to the massive search that included more than two-dozen officers. "We had to go all out to find her. We were concerned about her safety."
More on this story in tomorrow's editions of The Eagle-Tribune.