Two teens who ran away from the Lithia Springs Boys Home on Walker Avenue Tuesday were arrested early Wednesday after they stole a gun, knives and a truck outside of Ashland, sheriff's deputies said.

Two teens who ran away Tuesday from the Lithia Springs Boys Home on Walker Avenue were arrested early Wednesday after they stole a gun, knives and a truck outside of Ashland, sheriff's deputies said. A rural homeowner said the pair tried to break into his house and said the situation could have turned deadly.

Jackson County sheriff's deputies tracked the teens for five hours in the snow after a homeowner in the 4000 block of Old Siskiyou Highway reported the boys stole a gun and several hunting knives from him, officials said.

The deputies lost the teens, ages 15 and 18, at a creek and called off the search at 2:19 a.m., said Sgt. Dace Cochran with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

About 40 minutes later, the department received a 9-1-1 call from homeowners in the 100 block of Beacon Hill Lane, who reported their pickup truck had just been stolen.

Deputies spotted the Dodge truck a few miles away and, after a short pursuit, pulled it over and arrested the two teens. The 15-year-old, whose name was not released because of his age, had been driving, Cochran said.

The 18-year-old, Matthew Linschoten, was arrested for burglary in the first degree, theft in the first degree, unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, trespassing and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He was booked at the Jackson County Jail and will not be released on bail because he also has an Oregon Youth Authority warrant for a burglary.

The 15-year-old was arrested on the same charges and for attempting to elude a law enforcement vehicle and reckless driving. He was booked at Jackson County Juvenile Hall.

Deputies were glad to get a second chance at apprehending the teens, Cochran said.

"The deputies were saying, 'We're following these guys all this way, we've gone all this way, we're not giving up,'" he said. "So they were happy that about 45 minutes after they called off the track, this other call came in."

The teens fled at about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday while they were at an alternative school on Mistletoe Road.

About nine hours before, two other boys had run away from the Lithia Springs Boys Home. As of Wednesday afternoon, those two had not been located.

Tuesday's incidents bring the total number of runaways to 14 this year.

"I think everything has been a copycat situation," said Ann Snyder, spokeswoman for the Oregon Youth Authority. "We have to stop this contagion that's going on."

As a result of the incidents, youth authority officials will not send any more boys to the 13-bed home until they confer late next week with Community Works, which runs the home, she said.

"We take this kind of situation very seriously and we don't want youth in a non-secure facility who are potentially dangerous," she said.

All of the boys, age 13 to 18, at the home have committed low-level crimes and have been given clearance from the youth authority to attend a non-lockdown treatment program.

Youth authority officials support the Lithia Springs treatment program, Snyder said.

"We don't have any indication that there's a problem with treatment or the staff at the facility," she said. "We are, however, very concerned about whether the appropriate youth are being placed there."

The boys home, run by Community Works, has dealt with a string of "copy-cat" runaway cases this year, said Dan Murphy, president and chief of the social services nonprofit organization.

In a period of four weeks, ending in mid-February, 10 boys fled the 13-bed home. Then four more took off this week.

The runaway incidents concern Stuart Osmus, whose truck was stolen by the two teens arrested Wednesday.

"The fact that this was the 12th runaway in the last month or so, makes it seem like there's a lack of competence," he said.

As he and his wife, Dahna, were driving to pick up the truck from sheriff's deputies early Wednesday, Dahna discovered a gun in the back seat, accidentally left by the boys when they tried to steal that car, Stuart said.

The .22-caliber, six-shot revolver, was loaded, he said.

The Osmuses later discovered that the teens, who were cold and hungry, had tried to break into their house through the back door, Stuart said.

"Had the boys come into the house, somebody would have died," he said. "It would have been them or me."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.