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    Runaway brothers found near home

    By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 27, 2002

    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies found two missing North Lakes brothers Friday morning, more than 12 hours after the pair ran away from home.

    Chris Lewis, 13, and Markus Williams, 8, appeared to be heading back to their home in the 3200 block of Laurel Dale Drive when a resident in a nearby neighborhood spotted them.

    Their appearance ended a night of worry. Authorities had called 1,800 area residents Thursday night to alert them about the missing boys.

    Chris said he had a reason for running away, but he wouldn't disclose it.

    "They were fine, and no one had gotten in trouble (last night), so I have no idea why they went," said their mother, Marcia Williams, 27. Shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday, Chris said, he told Markus that he was leaving, and Markus decided to join him. They put T-shirts, pants and shoes into their book bags. They rolled up a blanket. They did not take any food.

    Marcia Williams said she knew they had snuck out when she saw that the book bags were missing.

    The two boys set out on bikes without a specific plan.

    They built a fire at a nearby park, which another resident spotted. They slept on grass at the end of a dead-end street.

    "It was like camping," said Markus.

    Meanwhile, police helicopters searched the area with spotlights and infrared cameras. Marcia Williams drove around looking for the boys, too upset to sleep.

    "I'm just glad they're back," she said Friday morning.

    -- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com.

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