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A mother waits for missing child

Sleeping pills and keeping busy are a Cottage Grove mother's antidotes to the stress of not knowing her 14-year-old daughter's whereabouts, and fearing she's with a man more than twice her age who has violent crimes in his past.

Brigette Tschida, whose daughter Angela Tschida hasn't been heard from since July 2, said she doesn't like the limelight, but she hopes media attention to the case might allow her daughter to see something that convinces her to come home.

"He may be saying that nobody cares, but that's the farthest thing (from the truth)," Brigette Tschida said.

Tschida and police suspect that Angela is somewhere in the southwest United States with Alexius J. McMullin, 36, who Brigette Tschida dated from about October of 2008 through June of 2009. She met him through another daughter who was friends with McMullin's daughter when both girls were in third grade.

"I met him that way, and his dog had had puppies and we had gotten a puppy from them," Tschida said.

She knew McMullin faced charges of allegedly threatening and sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend, but she had only heard his side of the story, and he was never abusive or violent with her.

"He would say that everybody around him was the problem," Tschida said.

When he went to jail in June of 2009, she viewed the case file on the assault and read his ex-girlfriend's victim's statement. She realized what McMullin had told her "wasn't adding up."

Tschida had no idea her daughter was in contact with McMullin until Nov. 30 of last year, when Angela punched her as she tried to take her cell phone away from her. First Tschida went to the clinic to get stitches in her lip, and next she went to Cottage Grove Middle School to speak with her daughter's counselor.

"Nothing like that had ever happened before," she said. "I was still, at that point, concerned about her because it was so beyond what I expected."

That's when she discovered the reason her daughter had reacted so strongly. The phone contained text messages between her daughter and McMullin that "definitely" suggested they had a romantic relationship, Tschida said. She turned the phone over to police.

Katie Golder, a friend of Angela's who said they met playing soccer, said she knew about the relationship between the teenager and McMullin a few months before her mother found out.

"She thought he was cute and stuff, and that's it really," Golder said. "She thought he would take care of her when she got older."

Angela would use her as a cover, Golder said, telling her parents she was staying over at her house, but then going to Minneapolis to stay with McMullin instead, she said. As far as she knew, McMullin was never violent with Angela, Golder said.

"I thought she shouldn't be doing it, because he's 36 and that's way too old," she said.

Once Angela's parents found out about the relationship, Golder thought that was the end of it. Angela didn't talk about it after that, she said.

Golder suspects Angela decided to run away because of a misguided notion that her family would be better off without her, she said.

"She thinks that her family doesn't care about her," Golder said. "I don't know why she would run away, because her family loves her."

The past year has been tough for the Tschida family, Brigette Tschida said. Last June she and Angela's father separated, and the family moved twice in the last year -- from their home that had been foreclosed on, to a rental home, and then to an apartment, she said.

Still, the family of five kids ages 7 through 16 and Tschida had fun together, she said.

"We had our moments, but not enough that I would have seen this one coming," she said.

The night before Angela left, she, along with her friend, sister and mom all went to see "Eclipse" together.

"We were laughing and joking and we had a good time," Tschida said.

The next morning when Angela was gone, Tschida figured she was probably just with a friend. She sent her a few text messages to find out where she was, and after she didn't get a reply, went to look at her computer and found she had deleted everything from it. Then she found a letter from Angela, telling her that she would be safe, that she needed to be free and that she would see her again one day.

Now, Tschida just hopes all of those things are true.

Family and friends of Angela Tschida are planning a candlelight vigil in hope of her safe return at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, at Kingston Park in Cottage Grove.