Darlington teen escapes Mexico, returns home

A Darlington teenager, now 16, who'd been missing for two-and-a-half years escaped from Mexico and is now back home with family and friends.

Darlington police say Sable Alexis Shelton's mother, who lost custody of her, and a man wanted for sex crimes in Darlington County took her to Mexico in 2010.

Police say her mother, Melissa Ann Butler, left South Carolina with Sable and Juan Calderon because Calderon was wanted on charges of criminal sexual conduct by the Darlington County Sheriff Office.

Sable's mother lost custody of her because of the charges against Calderon. Sable was placed into emergency protective custody in July 2010, but before officials could physically take custody of her, she was gone to Mexico.

Sable told police she wanted to leave Mexico because of Calderon's violent behavior, so her mother helped her cross the border to El Paso, Texas.

Police say Sable stayed in a teen center in El Paso until her grandmother picked her up last week.

"She was happy to be home, very happy to be home with her grandmother and family," said Sgt. Kim Nelson, Darlington Police.

Nelson says when Sable crossed the border, Texas authorities contacted them. Border Patrol officers identified Sable because she was listed as missing and endangered in a national crime database, as well as with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"When she did try to cross back into the border, she didn't have any identification with her, but they were still able to identify her and discovered that she was listed as missing," Nelson explained.

Sable's pastor, Reverend Leroy Lowery of Southside Free Will Baptist Church, says they've prayed for the teenager's safe return, but weren't too optimistic.

"We almost got to the point where we thought it was hopeless, because in our day and time when young women go missing it's very frightening to say the least," said Rev. Lowery.

When he saw Sable and her family walk through his church doors last Sunday, Pastor Lowery says the entire congregation was uplifted with joy.

"We clapped our hands, we praised the Lord, we thanked God for answering prayer."

He says he hasn't talked with Sable yet because he wants to give her time to adjust. In the meantime, he says, they're praying for Sable's mother.

"Hopefully, she'll be able to get out of Mexico and come home soon, and that's our next prayer, for her to get out of there."

Darlington police say if and when Melissa Butler comes back to Darlington, she faces a charge of Unlawful Neglect of a Child.

Police say they the teenager's grandmother now has custody of her.