Special Report: Missing Megan
FAIRFIELD, IL (WFIE) - It will soon be a year and a half since 16-year-old Illinois teenager Megan Nichols disappeared.
Authorities have labeled her a "runaway." It's a term that frustrates Megan's mom.
Most days are quiet in Fairfield, Illinois.
"This is a small town," said Kathy Jo Hutchcraft.
Sometimes, too quiet.
"It's really hard to put it into words," Kathy said. "It's heavy."
Kathy says the days and weeks run together, like one big nightmare since Megan went missing on July 3, 2014. She got home late that night.
"I came back, and she was gone," said Kathy.
Her daughter had vanished, but Kathy did find Megan's cell phone. It was wiped clean.
And there was a note - supposedly from Megan.
"I am upset. I am scared, and I am a little paranoid."
"I didn't believe it at first," said Melany Harris. "I just thought oh this is a joke."
Instantly – community search efforts got underway.
But the hours turned into days, weeks and months. And then more than a year.
"Every time the season changes, it breaks my heart," Kathy told us.
The only time Megan's friends and family see her anymore is when they sleep.
"I have dreams about her coming home that are almost so realistic that it's weird that she's not here when I wake up," Melany said.
"I dream about her and then I have to wake up to this," Kathy added. "This is hell. I mean, this is hell on earth."
Using ribbons, flyers, reward money, bracelets, signs...
Megan's loved ones are relentless in their efforts to bring her home. Even businesses are jumping in.
"We have people come through all the time asking have you heard anything about her," said Amanda Black at Taco Tierra.
"Just seeing that picture, seeing someone wear that bracelet that ribbon, it means the world to me," Kathy told us.
Kathy says it's that community support and her faith that keep her moving.
"If I didn't have God in my life, I can tell you I wouldn't be here," Kathy said.
She's also done some investigating of her own. Pulling phone records, creating Facebook groups - Kathy firmly believes her daughter didn't leave alone.
"I'm not convinced that she wrote that note, and if she did, I'm not convinced that she wasn't told to write that note," Kathy said.
"That's the scariest part... that we just don't know," Melany added.
"She could have been tricked," Kathy said. "She could have been lured into an incredibly awful, awful situation."
At only 15 -- Megan didn't have a driver's license at the time she disappeared. No car and no job.
Still - she didn't qualify for an Amber Alert.
"My opinion is the laws are screwed up," Kathy told us. "This is my child."
Megan is described as a "runaway."
"I don't care if she did run away," Kathy said. "That's not the point. The point is - she's in danger."
"There's no way that nobody knows," Melany added. "Somebody out there has to know something."
"She could be being abused, and it's hard to live and go on with that in the back of your mind," Kathy told us.
Until she's reunited with her daughter, Kathy is trying to put her frustrations aside.
She wants other parents in her situation to know - there is hope.
And runaway or not - never give up.
"Megan if you're seeing this, we want you to know how much you're missed," Kathy said.
"We would just love for you to at least call," Amanda added. "Come home."
We did reach out to the investigators in this case.
They didn't give us any information.
If you know anything about Megan Nichols' whereabouts – call authorities.
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