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2 MISSING BOYS FOUND, RETURNED TO HOME, FAMILY; BROTHERS WERE WITH FRIENDS WHILE SEARCHERS COMBED HILLS.

Byline: Stacy Brown Daily News Staff Writer

Two Lake Los Angeles boys, missing since Tuesday afternoon, were returned to their home Wednesday after sheriff's deputies found them walking toward a neighborhood grocery store with friends.

Authorities said 11-year-old Mario Gonzalez and his 8-year-old brother, Jose, walked out of their home in the 41400 block of 154th Street East at 2 p.m. Tuesday, apparently heading toward Piute Butte above the Antelope Valley Indian Museum about two miles away.

Deputies received a call from the boys' mother at 11 p.m. when they did not return. Deputies began searching immediately, and had more than 25 deputies and civilians out searching by car, foot, horseback and helicopter by the time the boys turned up at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The boys said they had never gone up into the hills, but spent the night at a friend's house about five blocks away from their home.

Family and friends said they feared for the worst when the boys did not return Tuesday evening.

``I thought the mountain lions had gotten to them,'' said neighborhood friend David Sutter, 15, who was helping the Gonzalez family move furniture at the time the boys disappeared.

Sutter said the Gonzalez boys and other neighborhood kids frequently went up into the rocky buttes ``just as something to do,'' usually carrying ``sticks with nails'' to protect themselves from any wild animals.

Janet Gonzalez, the boys' sister, interpreting for the non-English speaking mother, said the family also feared for the boys.

``My mom couldn't sleep - they had gone away before but never this long,'' Gonzalez said.

Authorities set up a command post outside the Antelope Valley Indian Museum to coordinate the search by deputies, civilians, mounted patrolmen and a

helicopter. As time continued to pass, neighbors came by to offer assistance in door-to-door efforts.

Sutter said the boys failed to notify their family of their plans to stay out overnight because the family doesn't have a home phone. The pair said they stayed at a friend's house and didn't realize they were being sought until a police helicopter began circling the neighborhood.

``We weren't scared,'' said Jose as he was whisked into his home through a crowd of officers and neighbors.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

Photo: (1--color in AV edition only) A helicopter flies over Piute Butte looking for two boys believed lost in the hills, but who were later found with friends.

(2-3--color in AV only) Deputies walk the Gonzalez family, from left, mother Rosa, daughter Janet, 13, Mario, 11, and Jose, 8, back to their Lake Los Angeles home after the two boys had been reported missing and found, above. At left, while Mario and Jose were believed lost, Sheriff's Department officials plan a search of the area.

Jeff Goldwater/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 26, 1997
Words:464
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