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Runaway reunited with relieved family

Teen was hiding with boyfriend

POSTED: January 20, 2009 2:59 p.m.

Authorities found North Forsyth High School student Kristen Gardner, left, on Thursday in Dawson County. Her boyfriend, Kevin Black, has been arrested. Gardner ran away with Black on Jan. 4, officials say.

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The mother of a North Forsyth High School student who ran away nearly two weeks ago is happy to have her daughter home, but said the child is “definitely” grounded.


“She’s not going anywhere without me right beside her,” said Dina Gardner, who was reunited with 16-year-old Kristen Gardner on Thursday night.


Authorities found the teenager in Dawson County, where they arrested her boyfriend, 17-year-old Kevin Lee Black, with whom she had been hiding.


Lt. Col. Gene Moss of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said Kristen Gardner was unharmed. Dawson investigators turned her over to Forsyth authorities.


“It’s going to be a while before I can let her go,” Dina Gardner said, adding that their entire family was happy to have her home.


She said it may take some time for them to heal, but they are thankful she is safe.


Kristen Gardner was found at a private residence on the grounds of Paradise Valley Resort, which touts itself as a “clothing optional” establishment near Dawsonville.


Her mother said the teenager called a friend to come pick her up. That person, in turn notified the family.


Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten said Black, who is from Lumpkin County, was arrested and has been charged with contributing to the delinquency of an unruly minor and interference with child custody.


Black was released Jan. 16 on a $2,200 bond.


Wooten said additional arrests could be made.


A Paradise Valley spokesman said Black cut grass last summer at the resort, but is no longer an employee. He said Black’s mother is a housekeeper there.


He explained that one portion of the 100-acre site features a hotel and other vacation amenities, while the other part consists of privately owned units.


The spokesman said resort staff was not aware Kristen Gardner was at the residence until authorities showed up Thursday.


Eleven days earlier, sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. Jan. 4,  Gardner left home with Black.


Dina Gardner said her daughter was forbidden to see Black after he got in trouble at North Forsyth’s homecoming last fall.


She and her husband later took away the teen’s cell phone after discovering that she had continued to see him secretly.


Gardner said Friday her daughter was ready to leave Black when authorities found her.


“She did have all of her bags packed when they got there,” she said. “And she said she really missed home and really missed us. I think she knows she really messed up.”


Gardner said she’ll be busy taking down fliers she posted throughout the area, including Dawson County.


“I’m just so thankful to the whole community because I know there are so many people that played a part in getting her home,” she said. “So I’m very thankful to everyone.”


Lumpkin County authorities were also working on the case and at one point last week thought the couple was staying at an apartment in Gainesville.


Michele Hester contributed to this story.


E-mail Julie Arrington at


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