According to a news release sent by an APD spokesperson around 9:23 a.m. Tuesday, the girl, Oreyana Clinton (sometimes spelled Oriana), was “safely located on a bus in Albuquerque.” No further details were provided by the department about the case.
“This remains an ongoing investigation,” said Rebecca Atkins of APD’s Public Information Office. “Further updates will be provided as they are available.”
APD publicly reported the girl as missing just after 4 a.m. Tuesday. A newly filed criminal complaint against the girl’s father, Nicholas Clinton, sheds more light on how police got involved in the case, which began Monday evening.
According to the complaint, police first spoke to Clinton at a family shelter managed by the city of Albuquerque around 8:20 p.m. Monday. Clinton, who was staying at the shelter, reported his 5-year-old child was missing.
During an interview with officers, police say Clinton “appeared intoxicated and was slurring his words.” In the same interview, police say Clinton stated, “[police] should be out looking for his child and not on scene with him.”
As police spoke to Clinton, officers allege that Clinton balled his fists and lunged toward an officer. The complaint doesn’t mention physical contact between Clinton and the officer. Clinton was arrested and charged with assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest.
Hours after Clinton’s arrest, around 4 a.m. Tuesday, APD began circulating an “endangered and missing” poster, seeking more information about the girl. In that poster, the department said Clinton did not know where he last saw his daughter or what happened.
Police also reported on the post the girl was last seen with Clinton trying to get on a city bus Monday afternoon near 51st and Central. However, “due to the father’s state of intoxication, he was denied access to the city bus.”
By 9 a.m. Tuesday, New Mexico State Police sent out an Amber Alert. Just 23 minutes later, APD’s Public Information Office said the girl was found safe on a bus. So far, it remains unclear exactly when the girl was found or where she was between Monday night and Tuesday morning when police stated she was found safely.
However, a transit driver on one Albuquerque bus says she overheard a man talking about how he spotted the little girl and called the police. Meghan Plunkett, transit driver, says the man told her he was the one who reported spotting her to the police.
“He told me that he was getting off the bus westbound central at Wyoming in front of the Circle K, which is a McDonald’s,” Plunkett says, “He saw this woman smoking whatever it is they smoke with this child and that he said it just didn’t seem right. That she looked like a street person with scabs on her face and everything and that this child is very clean cut.”
Plunkett says the man told her he got back on the bus to follow the woman and the child, and sometime around this time, the whole bus got the Amber Alert about Oreyana. “He said he got back on the bus, and I guess he spoke to the woman. He spoke to her, and she was very gruff with him, telling him to mind his own business and everything and telling him that she was taking this child home for her friend,” Plunkett says, “He just began to question it, and he called, and he talked to the bus driver and then he called the police. He said it took ’em like 45 minutes he said he had that child is on this bus, and he said it took the cops 35 minutes to get there.”
Plunkett says police eventually pulled the bus over, arrested the woman, and got the child safely off the bus. A classic case of someone seeing something and saying something: “He just said all the bells and whistles went off in his head that this child was way too clean to be with this person that’s been on the street and doing drugs,” Plunkett says.
KRQE News 13 reached out to APD to confirm this story and where the child was found but was told this is all still under investigation. No word on who currently has custody of Oreyana.
So far, Clinton isn’t facing any charges related to the child. According to jail records from Bernalillo County’s Metropolitan Detention Center website, Clinton was booked around 1:26 a.m. Tuesday. Court records indicate a Metro Court judge released Clinton from MDC on his own recognizance Tuesday morning following a first appearance court hearing around 9:30 a.m.
Nicholas Clinton also has a history of domestic violence charges against Oreyana’s mother, including one incident in July at the same shelter he was arrested on Tuesday. The police report says Oreyana tried to fight him off her mother with a stick while he assaulted her in front of Oreyana.
Oreyana’s mother, Kimberly, also has several child abuse and child endangerment charges including once incident in July 2019 where both Kimberly and Nicholas were trying to buy meth on Central with Oreyana along.
When they were arrested, the police say they contacted CYFD to put Oreyana Clinton on a 48-hour hold. What’s unclear is what action beyond that CYFD took. The department cites privacy laws when News 13 asks about individual cases and actions.