Town hopes for answers after missing teen returns

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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.

Town hopes for answers after missing teen returns
Abigail Hernandez, right, sits with family and friends as she listens to her mother Zenya Hernandez, center, talk with N.H. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, right, prior to the arraignment of Nathaniel Kibby, 34, of Gorham, N.H. at Conway District Court in Conway, N.H., Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Kibby was charged with kidnapping Abigail Hernandez nine months ago was ordered held on $1 million bail after a brief court appearance Tuesday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)
Zenya Hernandez, left, mother of Abigail Hernandez, talks with N.H. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, right, prior to the arraignment of Nathaniel Kibby, 34, of Gorham, N.H. at Conway District Court in Conway, N.H., Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Kibby was charged with kidnapping Abigail Hernandez nine months ago was ordered held on $1 million bail after a brief court appearance Tuesday. At center background is Abigail Hernandez. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)
This booking photo released by the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office shows Nathaniel E. Kibby, 34, of Gorham, N.H., arrested Monday, July 28, 2014 and charged with one count of felony kidnapping of Abigail Hernandez, who went missing in Conway, N.H., in October 2013, and returned home last week. Kibby will be arraigned Tuesday in district court in Conway, N.H. (AP Photo/New Hampshire Attorney General's Office)
This police artist sketch released Thursday, July 24, 2014 by the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office depicts a man's likeness drawn from a description provided by Abigail Hernandez that she said drove her away from North Conway, N.H., more than nine months earlier. Attorney General Joseph Foster said it is unclear if the girl was taken against her will, lured away, or what role the man may have played in concealing her whereabouts. Hernandez returned home Sunday night. (AP Photo/New Hampshire Attorney General's Office)
A sign that had been posted on the storefront window of the Naked Bohemian boutique is seen Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Conway, N.H. The sign now reads that Abigail Hernandez has been found. Hernandez disappeared Oct. 9, 2013 and Attorney General Joseph Foster said Abigail Hernandez was reunited with her family Sunday, July 20. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
FILE-Conway, N.H. police released this photo of 14-year-old Abigail Hernandez of North Conway, N.H. Thursday Oct. 10, 2013. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said missing teenager Abigail Hernandez wrote a letter to her mother Zenya Hernandez postmarked Oct. 23 and was received by her mother Nov. 6.(AP Photo/Conway Police department/FILE)
A billboard on the road to Conway, N.H., posts missing teen Abigail Hernandez, Tuesday July 22, 2014, in Conway, N.H. Hernandez disappeared Oct. 9, 2013 and Attorney General Joseph Foster said Abigail Hernandez was reunited with her family Sunday, July 20. So far, her return is cloaked in just as much mystery as her Oct. 9 disappearance.. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2013 file photo, tourists walk by an information booth in North Conway, N.H., bearing a poster of missing teenager Abigail Hernandez, 14, who disappeared on Oct. 9, 2013, after leaving school. New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster said Monday, July 21, 2014, that Abigail Hernandez was reunited with her family Sunday evening. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
the mother of missing teen Abigail Hernandez, Zenya Hernandez, center, and her daughter, Sarah Hernandez listen as Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young speaks during a news conference Friday Dec. 6, 2013 in Concord, N.H. Young said the missing teenager wrote a letter to her mother Zenya postmarked Oct. 23 and was received by her mother Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young speaks during a news conference Friday Dec. 6, 2013 in Concord, N.H. Young said missing teenager Abigail Hernandez wrote a letter to her mother Zenya postmarked Oct. 23 and was received by her mother Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Zenya Hernandez, center, and her daughter, Sarah Hernandez look at Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, during a news conference Friday Dec. 6, 2013 in Concord, N.H. Young said missing teenager Abigail Hernandez wrote a letter to her mother Zenya postmarked Oct. 23 and was received by her mother Nov. 6.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young speaks during a news conference Friday Dec. 6, 2013 in Concord, N.H. Young said missing teenager Abigail Hernandez wrote a letter to her mother Zenya postmarked Oct. 23 and was received by her mother Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
In this photo taken Friday Oct. 11, 2013 in North Conway, N.H., a conservation officer for the Fish and Game checks a map as they get ready to search the woods for 15-year-old Abigail Hernandez. Volunteers and joined Fish and Game officers and have searched thousands of acres of land looking for any clues how Hernandez disappeared. Nothing has been found as investigators try to find how Hernandez disappeared Wednesday Oct. 9 when she was last seen leaving school walking towards home. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
New Hampshire Fish and Game personnel and volunteers take a break after searching the woods for 14-year-old Abigail Hernandez, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in North Conway, N.H. Hernandez was last seen Wednesday afternoon leaving school. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
In this photo taken Wednesday Oct. 16, 2013 in North Conway, N.H., Gordon Clark, a train engineer for the Conway Scenic railroad, peers out of his window before taking tourists through the White Mountains. People in this tourist town in the mountains are left wondering what happened to missing teenager Abigail Hernandez. Nothing has been found as investigators try to find how Hernandez disappeared Wednesday Oct. 9 when she was last seen leaving school and walking towards home. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
In this Wednesday Oct. 16, 2013 photo, Rosemarie Madieros stands behind her register at the No. Conway 5-and-10 in North Conway, N.H. Madieros is one of many people in this tourist town in the mountains who are left wondering what happened to missing teenager Abigail Hernandez. Nothing has been found as investigators try to find how Hernandez disappeared Wednesday Oct. 9 when she was last seen leaving school and walking towards home.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
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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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