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Missing teen Eli Rabago found in Los Angeles

Developmentally disabled 19-year-old was missing since Feb. 26

A developmentally disabled teenager who went missing Feb. 26 was found early Tuesday morning sleeping in a park in Los Angeles, the Pima County Sheriff's Department said.

"We got him," said Eli Rabago's father Ruben Rabago.

Eli appeared to be in good health, said PCSD spokeswoman Deputy Dawn Barkman.

PCSD detectives were working with the Rabago family to arrange for Eli to be picked up in California, Barkman said.

The family would not give details around 9:45 a.m. Tuesday about where and how the teen was found, only a confirmation that they had him.

On Monday, Martta and Ruben Rabago said they were contacted by a woman near Tucson Mall who said she saw the developmentally disabled 19-year-old.

The woman took a photo of Eli with her phone and sent it to the Rabagos, who confirmed it was their son. The Rabagos did not want the photo released to the media Monday.

The woman called Eli's name and he turned toward her, but became frightened, the couple said.

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Eli Rabago was last seen by his family the morning of Feb. 26 at his grandparents' home near Skyline and Sunrise drives.

The Rabagos believe Eli had learned how to use the bus and that people on the street were likely helping him stay one step ahead of being found.

The couple said Monday they believe Eli may have been asserting his independence and that they were willing to offer it to him if he came home. They also believed that Eli was afraid because he believed he was in trouble for being missing.

"If he doesn't want to live with Mom and Dad, we can find a home for him," his mother, Martta, said. "We will do as much as we can to get him independent, just not independent on the street."

Eli was reportedly spotted around Midtown and on the city's North Side since Feb. 27.

On Saturday, Martta and Ruben met with some of Tucson's "tunnel kids" — teenage runaways who take shelter in the city's tunnels in washes and storm drainage systems —in the hopes of finding information on their son. The couple were so moved by what they saw and the teens they met that they returned Monday with food and water for the runaways, they said.

The family organized four search parties Saturday that began at 9 a.m. and ended in the afternoon. More than 200 people turned out to search and at least 2,000 flyers with information about Eli's disappearance were distributed, the Rabagos said.

The family calls their supporters the "Pink Shoelace Crew" after the pink laces Eli wears in his tennis shoes in honor of an aunt who died from breast cancer, according to a post on the Rabago Family Support Page on Facebook.

The Rabagos believe that Eli may have taken off from his grandparent's home because he was anxious about upcoming AIMS testing and worried about his grandfather, who is hospitalized with a terminal illness, Martta said.

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Courtesy Rabago family

Eli Rabago