KENNEWICK, Wash. - A 15-year-old girl’s death has left her family in Kennewick shaken, wishing they had done more for her before it was too late.
Annieka Vaughan’s body was found in a Portland park on Nov. 8, after she ran off with a 23-year-old Pasco man who shot and killed her, according to police.
Her stepdad William Scott said Annieka, who also went by "Annie" was a loving, artistic girl who had more to offer the world than she thought. She was also increasingly secretive, struggling with drug addiction and possibly suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues, he said.
“She was very private,” Scott said. “She would shut down a lot in the last year. She didn’t really know how to handle everything that was going on with our family.”
Scott and his wife Nessa, Annieka's biological mother, gained full custody of Annie in 2010. She was raised in Oregon on the west side and stayed with her grandparents a couple years before that. A few years ago, before moving to the Tri-Cities, Scott recalls her being a happy, open book who liked to speak her mind.
One summer, while Scott’s wife was deployed with the Army, he was the only parent around, spending a lot of quality time with Annie and his oldest son, who is now 12.
“I just remember taking them to the park and just trying to be there for them. I think that me and her had a lot of issues, but I really wanted to be a good dad to her,” Scott said.
Annie’s mother realized her daughter was troubled and showed signs she might hurt herself, but many of the professionals they saw did not take her seriously, Scott said.
After running away from her home in Kennewick twice and expressing she would leave again, her mom and stepdad had agreed to let her live in Aloha, Oregon, where she stayed for three weeks before running away one last time.
Police said Annie’s life ended in murder. However, it appears her family is just as focused on what could have been prevented as they are focused on what really took place in the last few weeks.
“We loved her and we tried to help her. We tried to get her all the support and help that we needed, but a lot of phases weren’t dealt with properly,” Scott said. “Wish I could have seen her one more time.”
Scott attended his first grief counseling session Tuesday with his wife and two sons ages 5 and 12. Unable to change the past, his focus now turns to supporting his wife and helping his young boys process the situation.
They will be hosting a small, private funeral for Annie in Hood River on Friday.
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