Casa Grande Police initially got a report of Cardenas going missing on Aug. 29. She was entered into a national database as a missing person/runaway.
Cardenas was considered a "runaway," but of course, that didn't stop her family from frantically searching for her and spreading the word of her disappearance. Her family says she left with a teenage boy, but police did not provide details about that claim.
On Sept. 7, Cardenas' mother told FOX 10 that Karleigh was found by Phoenix Police.
"We are so grateful," her mother said. "We don't have her yet, but we should be seeing her soon."
Karleigh Cardenas. Photo from Rene Cardenas
‘She is my baby girl’
Karleigh's mother, Rene Cardenas, spoke to FOX 10 about her daughter on Sept. 6.
"Karleigh has two older sisters and she has a younger brother. Everyone is desperately looking for her. Our family is so worried about her. She is the youngest of the three girls, so she is my baby girl. We're just hoping to find her. This isn't in her character," she said.
The family is offering a $7,500 reward for her return.
"I do know that she left with a boy from the community. I do know that on Friday, he returned. He contacted his family and they picked him up. We have not been able to get information on where my daughter is. We're just hoping for help from the community," Rene said.
Although police have not mentioned Karleigh leaving with a boy, Rene says she was and the fact he came home alone is concerning.
"I just know that when the boy came home, that at some point she should have, or would have called. I'm just concerned that as time continues to lapse, that it's not going to be good news," the mother said.
She says the boy is about Karleigh's age.
"I do believe that please are speaking with him. I do know that our private investigators have been making contact with him as well. So we're hopeful that we can get some information, some leads on where they separated, how they separated, and why they separated," Rene said.
The search continues for the teen.
"We have been doing a lot. My family and friends and a lot of people from my community have been so gracious, and we've had such a response. So we've had a lot of activity in the area. I know Glendale Police Department is working hard. I know Casa Grande Police Department is working hard. And I know our private investigators with Mayhem Solution Group are working really hard. So, we just need people in the community. If you see something, say something, even if it's not about just my daughter. If you see something strange in your community, or you see something that's not right. Say something about it, because you could be saving somebody's life," Rene said.
Karleigh's mother is pleading for help bringing her youngest daughter home.
"I don't even … I can't even describe what it's been like. My heart constantly aches for her. My heart is constantly aching to have her back with her family. We want her home so bad. It's our only focus until we find her. We will not focus our attention anywhere else until we find her," she said.
What does the mother think of the response by authorities?
"It was taken as a runaway report, and runaways aren't treated the same as a missing person. But since the time has elapsed and the boy has since been home, she is still missing. I think that they have heavily been involved, and I think they want answers for us just as bad as we want answers," she said.
She has a message for her daughter.
"We just want her. If she sees this or hears this, just know we need you home. We're not going to stop looking for you. Everyone in the community is praying for you. Everyone is looking for you. We love you so much," Rene said.