Officials in Ecuador are now offering a reward for the safe return of a missing Oklahoma teen, who was last seen more than a week ago. A monetary value for the reward has not yet been determined, according to family members.
The reward announcement, as well as new pressure from the State of Oklahoma and the White House, are giving family members of August Reiger some fresh encouragement.
August went missing from a hike on Father's Day, according to officials. He disappeared while on a family vacation not long after graduating from the top of his class at Classen SAS in Oklahoma City.
On June 18, News 9 was the first American media outlet to report on the teen's disappearance. Since that time, family members say continued news coverage is making an impact and intensifying search efforts.
"We're just blown away by that," August's cousin Laura Laporte said. "The response that we've gotten … it's incredible."
Family members now say an apparent sighting of August heading toward the Amazon last week may not be accurate. Besides the alleged sighting, no other known evidence suggests August was heading toward the rain forest. However, family members say the witness' account to government officials still gives them hope.
"If that's true, he's alive, or he was at that time," Laporte said. "All of that is very encouraging for us. Anything more that anyone can do is great."
Reiger's family has now met with the head of the Ecuadorian National Police and other top government leaders, who tell the family they have officially categorized the teen's disappearance as a kidnapping. American officials say President Obama is monitoring the case. The U.S. Embassy has received calls from Congressional Offices and that of Oklahoma's chief executive.
"Governor Fallin's office has been in contact with U.S. officials in Ecuador and asked them to make the search for August Reiger a priority," spokesperson Alex Weintz said. "Our administration has been told that the U.S. embassy and the State Department are extending every possible assistance to local authorities. We continue to monitor the situation and pray for August's safe return."
The Reiger family has been told it is not unusual for kidnappers to wait months before demanding a ransom. The family is currently being guarded with a police escort. The family also says that a special police taskforce has been established to investigate August's disappearance.