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Town hopes for answers after missing teen returns

Missing Teen Returns Home 9 Months Later

CONWAY, N.H. (AP) -- After a 15-year-old girl returned safely to her family nine months after vanishing on the way home from school, townspeople who searched and prayed that she would return are relieved -- and looking for answers about where she's been and how she got home.

State Attorney General Joseph Foster said Abigail Hernandez was reunited with her family Sunday, and so far, her return is cloaked in just as much mystery as her Oct. 9 disappearance after leaving Kennett High School in Conway.

The family has asked for privacy, but in a brief statement, Foster said Abigail's mother, Zenya Hernandez, said "today we are the happiest people on earth."

At The Naked Bohemian gift shop in North Conway on Tuesday, owner Joe Downs used a black magic marker to write "Found" over a missing-persons poster bearing a photo of Abigail's face.

"I'm glad to see she's home in one piece," he said. "Hopefully, her life gets back to normal, she goes back to school and everything's good."

Police said Abigail left school at the normal time and walked the usual route toward her house that October day, sending several texts between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. But she never made it home.

Police revealed several months ago that she had written home to her mother. When the letter surfaced, FBI agent Kieran Ramsey said there was the possibility that Abigail, who turned 15 a week after disappearing, had run away but that someone could be coercing her into staying away. Police have not revealed the contents of the letter.

Foster said the criminal investigation into Abigail's disappearance will continue. After she vanished, police consistently said they had no evidence to suggest anything suspicious and were treating her disappearance as a missing-person's case. In Conway, rescuers fanned out for days over the heavily forested terrain that surrounds the town house where Hernandez lives with her mother. Police also searched by air, stopped traffic and handed out fliers, and used boats on the Saco River and Pudding Pond.

When questioned over the months about the scope of the search, law enforcement said it was appropriate to try to recover a missing child.

Downs remembers the effect the disappearance had on the community and said people here deserve some answers. The thought that someone could snatch a child sent shudders down the spines of people in the northern New Hampshire town that relies heavily on family-oriented tourism.

"I don't know how much this cost the town but somebody should come clean about what happened," he said of the heavy law enforcement effort. "They didn't find her; she came home on her own, from what I know."

"I want to know where she was, where she's been for nine months," Downs said. "It should have been figured out. Everybody wants to know the truth."

Police Chief Edward Wagner said the search cost his department more than $20,000, a third of his annual overtime budget, and that didn't include hours worked by officers who don't get overtime.

At the school on Tuesday, Principal Neal Moylan pulled together summer school students to see how they were handling the news.

"These are young people who've gone through a whole range of emotions this past year," Moylan said.

"Everybody wonders what's going on," Moylan said. "We're patient. We're going to stay out of the way and let the professionals do their job and when it's time for us to do our job, we'll be here."

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Carol July 22 2014 at 8:05 PM

Figure it out folks! Gone for 9 months and the folks would rather not talk about it? Was it a boy or a girl?

Flag Reply +16 rate up
3 replies
quincy_maxwell July 22 2014 at 6:58 PM

She didn't want to follow the rules, was "in love" and wanted to be with some boy. " I love him so much and I know he loves me." Same story we've heard before. But who has to pay for all the time and resources used to look for her? The tax payers. Bill her...she wants to be so independent, the let her get a job and make her pay the tax payers back.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
Viper1ex19 July 22 2014 at 8:02 PM

This young lady should be held responsible for the costs of the search efforts.

She knew there was a massive search being conducted.

Regardless of why she left home, there are support groups and homes where she could have stayed until she worked out her problems and still let everyone know she was alive and well.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
scottee July 22 2014 at 8:38 PM

her mother got the whole town and state involved....her mother needs to explain.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
kittenblu scottee July 23 2014 at 11:58 AM

Oh wah, wah, wah..help me, help me!!! ...Oh wait, she's back. Nevermind.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
JOHNNY July 22 2014 at 8:44 PM

All of you need to mind your own damn business!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
4 replies
juststeve35 July 22 2014 at 6:42 PM

The Truth?

Sorry...

You are NOT entitled to the whole truth until this family is ready to discuss it.

Just be happy that whatever happened, this young lady is home with her family and that (hopefully) she did not suffer terribly in the month's in between.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
4 replies
Hi July 22 2014 at 8:26 PM

Does it really matter where she was, sure you can wonder but she's back and alive. That should be good enough, let her family have some peace.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
PERFORATOR Hi July 23 2014 at 5:18 AM

The people who were concerned about her well being deserve an explanation.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
moooooooooochelle July 22 2014 at 10:54 PM

DOES SHE KNOW WHO THE FATHER IS?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
jktkw July 22 2014 at 9:25 PM

I'll bet she left with some boyfrirnd or went on a binge. If any of this is true, she must be held accountable.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
joedtonid July 23 2014 at 6:27 AM

people just mind your business

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
usapaydirt joedtonid July 23 2014 at 9:48 AM

You speak words of great profound wisdom.....

Flag Reply 0 rate up
kittenblu joedtonid July 23 2014 at 11:56 AM

Yep, sure will. Next time a mother is sobbing on the TV for help, you bet your ass Im gonna mind my own business.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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