ROOSEVELT — It's been more than two months since NilaDe Tabbee last saw her teenage daughter.
"We miss her terribly," Tabbee said. "There is a hole in our lives."
Rikki Lynn Tabbee ran away Aug. 4, prompting her mother to contact the Roosevelt Police Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has listed the 17-year-old girl as an endangered runaway.
Tabbee said she and her husband had tried to persuade 20-year-old Monte Cuch to leave their daughter alone for more than a year before the teen ran away with him.
"We just basically said, 'If you can just leave her alone, let her be a high school student, enjoy her high school time, then we'd see what happened after he could prove he was a decent guy,'" Tabbee said.
When that didn't happen — and their daughter was referred to juvenile court for truancy — the parents sought and obtained a restraining order against Cuch.
Uintah County prosecutors also charged Cuch in 8th District Court with sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony; and dealing in material harmful to a minor, a third-degree felony. Those charges stem from Tabbee's discovery of a video on Cuch's cellphone that showed her daughter and the man engaged in a sex act.
"I basically dropped to my knees," Tabbee said. "I mean, I wanted to throw up. No one wants to see their daughter in that situation."
Rikki's absence has taken its toll, not only on her mother, but also on her siblings and father, who is in kidney failure.
"One night I was talking to him on the phone, and our younger daughter heard him crying," Tabbee said. "She said, 'Mom, that's the first time I've ever heard Dad cry.'
"It's taking its toll on him," she said.
Both Rikki and her boyfriend, who also uses the name Monte Esparza, have written about their decision to runaway on Facebook.
In a post from just a few days ago, Tabbee wrote that she is happy where she is.
"I am very much taken care of. I have a cozy bed to sleep in every night," she wrote. "I don't feel un safe (sic) at all."
Cuch's post is more confrontational, writing that he will "handle" the consequences of his actions.
"(I'm) the one the pigs want n will b sittin' in jail but guess wut its (sic) ALL WORTH IT," he wrote.
Without being able to talk to her daughter, Tabbee said she has no way of knowing she's really safe.
The only way she'll know for sure, she said, is if Rikki comes home.
"There's nothing we can't work out together," Tabbee said, when asked if she had a message for her daughter.
"And we love her no matter what," she added.
Tabbee also had a message for Cuch.
"If he's not ready, please just encourage Rikki to come home," she said. "She deserves to be a teenager."
Detectives are seeking a warrant for Cuch's arrest on the felony charges. He is also being sought on a warrant for failing to appear in Uintah County Justice Court in an unrelated DUI case.
Police believe Cuch and Rikki are both living on the Wasatch Front somewhere.
Anyone with information should call the Roosevelt Police Department at 435-722-4558 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
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