OCEANSIDE — The family of El Camino High School sophomore Rudy Moya, who went missing for more than three weeks, is continuing to heal following his return home.
Fifteen-year-old Rudy left his home in the evening on Dec. 16, leaving behind a note saying he was moving out and requesting his parents not search for him.
According to his mother, Jennie Moya, Rudy tidied up his room before placing the note, then left the home to catch an Uber at the Holiday Inn at 1410 Carmelo Drive to another unknown location in the city.
Jennie reported him missing early the next morning.
For just over three weeks, Rudy remained out of sight of both the police and his family, skipping the last week of classes before winter break.
At that time, his family held weekly candlelight vigils by the Oceanside Pier in the hopes that he would be found soon.
Then, when the second semester resumed on Jan. 8, Rudy showed up for classes at El Camino High School. School officials pulled him out of class to meet with authorities before he returned to his family.
Since his return home over a week ago, Rudy and his family have been taking steps to adjust back to normalcy and heal from their time apart.
“He’s doing great,” his mother said.
The choice to run away from home was “completely out of character” for Rudy, according to his mother. She described him as a kind young man, an excellent athlete and a loving son.
With his stepfather in the Air Force, Rudy grew up mostly outside of the United States in countries including Japan and Italy before moving to Oceanside. After his mother told him it was time to stop hanging out with problematic friends or they would have to relocate to Fort Worth, Texas, where his stepfather is stationed, Rudy wrote the note and left.
According to his mother, Rudy was staying at the home of one of those friends during the time he was missing.
“Some of his belongings are still over there,” Jennie said.
Jennie remains frustrated by how she feels police handled his search, which she suggested wasn’t prioritized due to his disappearance being labeled a runaway case.
“OPD had nothing to do with the search for my son,” she said.
She also wants the family that harbored him to be held accountable.
“Thank God my son is fine, but I don’t know what happened in that house,” she said.
While Oceanside Police have stated they began immediately investigating Rudy’s disappearance, his mother said that is false.
According to OPD, the investigation started immediately with efforts to track his phone, visit different friends’ houses, enter him into the Missing Person System nationwide database, and put out a Be-on-the-Lookout (BOLO) for him countywide.
“We’re doing everything we can to find him,” Police Capt. John McKean previously told The Coast News.
McKean also noted the trickiness of the situation due to the lack of a crime and evidence of Rudy’s disappearance.
According to the police, Rudy is one of 261 missing persons cases that OPD handled last year. Many of these cases involve children who have run away from home, though police noted that many of these same kids typically return home within a few weeks.
“We were expecting him to return to school, which he did,” said Tom Bussey, a spokesperson for OPD.
Bussey said that runaway cases are treated differently than kidnapping cases due to the nature of how the child goes missing. Runaways typically have a plan, he said, whereas those who have been kidnapped don’t and are often taken for bad intentions.
“We don’t get a case, throw it on our desk and forget about it,” Bussey said. “I’m sure glad that he’s back home.”
Fearing for future missing children in Oceanside, Jennie wants OPD to change its system for handling runaway cases.
“God forbid the next child is not safe,” she said.
She also cautioned others to withhold judgment about families whose children run away.
“People often assume things about families whose children run away… Regardless of what’s happening, we still need to find the child,” Jennie said. “It’s not okay to harbor them.”
The Moya family is considering converting its Bring Rudy Home Facebook page dedicated to finding Rudy to one that serves as a community resource for Oceanside families of runaways.