Three Topeka, KS, kids are safe Thursday night. A massive manhunt for the kids finally came to an end Wednesday night, but a lot of questions remain about where they've been.
The kids were found at about 7:15 p.m., a full 21 hours after their parents came home from a one hour errand Wednesday night to find them gone.
Capt. Jerry Stanley said in a statement the two girls and their brother were found "safe but hungry."
The children were identified as 13-year-old Stephanie Witten, 12-year-old Seth Witten and 10-year-old Michelle Witten.
Police said an alert citizen who'd seen the news reports recognized the children playing near a creek along the Shunga Trail, near Southwest Gage Avenue.
"This investigation has come to a safe conclusion because an alert citizen observed the kids playing in the creek and notified Topeka police. We appreciate all the phone calls and tips we received throughout the day," Stanley said in a written statement.
The location is 2 1/2 miles from the house.
"They have been checked out by an ambulance crew. The crew thought they were a little dehydrated, thought they needed something to drink, something to eat, but that they were in pretty good shape," Lt. Chuck Haggard said.
"I know they did have food and they did have water and they did have some sleeping gear. I don't know if you'd call it camping gear, but they were prepared to sleep all night," Stanley said.
Just an hour before, members of the family's church were on the lawn praying for their safe return.
Police had no indication of foul play, but as time wore on, they were getting more and more worried as temperatures reached the 90s on Thursday. They visited the kids' home again late in the afternoon to look through the family computer and had been checking the homes of local sex offenders, working every contingency, just in case.
Their mother said the 13-year-old had run away before but not the younger two, and the youngest had recently been diagnosed with autism.
The kids were taken to the police station and separated from their parents while police interviewed everyone.
A crew with KCTV's sister station said the mom left about 9 p.m. Thursday without the kids, but police hadn't said where things stand in terms of custody.
There's no word yet on why the kids decided to leave or what they had been up to overnight and all day.
Police had said throughout the search they did not suspect foul play. No Amber Alerts were issued.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associate Press. All rights reserved.
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