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Kids missing; police say girl took them away

Tampa police were searching late Wednesday for two girls ages 4 years and 6 weeks who, they said, disappeared with a 12-year-old girl from the Ponce De Leon public housing complex Wednesday afternoon.

The girls were visiting a cousin's house with their mother, Cynthia Brown, when the 12-year-old, an acquaintance of the cousin, stopped by and asked if she could take the children to the store.

Brown was on the phone at the time and was distracted, she told police. But she soon realized the children were gone.

About 20 police officers combed the complex and neighboring area for Veatrice Washington and 4-year-old Tyqueisha Brown and the infant Jamesha McBride, who was in a stroller.

The girls left the home at 1820 E 24th Ave. around noon, police said, but family members did not call police for 2{ hours.

Veatrice's mother, Diana Washington, said drug and alcohol tests for her daughter have recently come back positive.

She said she did not know if her daughter would harm the children or why she may have taken them. "Right now, I do not know what she is capable of or what her state of mind is," said Washington, 38.

Police said they were concerned because of the girls' ages, but said they had no reason to believe that Veatrice intended to harm them.

Tyqueisha Brown is 3 feet, 33 pounds and slender. She was wearing a white top and plaid shorts. The baby wore a white and pink jumper. Veatrice is between 5-feet-2 and 5-feet-4 and weighs 110 to 125 pounds, police said.

She may have been wearing a black dress with white stripes, police said. All are black.

The sixth-grader walked from her home in nearby Seminole Heights to the housing complex Wednesday, her mother said. Her mother said she did not know why she went there.

_ KATHRYN WEXLER

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