Alicia Navarro, now 18, of Glendale, Ariz., showed up alone this week in a small Montana town about 64 kilometres from the Canadian border and identified herself. It’s unclear how she travelled from Arizona to Montana, more than 1,600 kilometres away from her home in the Phoenix suburb.
“She is by all accounts safe, she is by all accounts healthy, and she is by all accounts happy,” Glendale police spokesperson said Jose Santiago in a livestreamed news conference Wednesday evening.
“She showed up to a police department. She identified herself as Alicia Navarro. She basically asked for help to clear her off of a missing juvenile list,” Santiago added.
Navarro’s disappearance sparked a massive search that included the FBI and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Santiago said over the years, police had received thousands of tips.
It appears that Navarro may have run away from home, but police say they are still investigating her whereabouts for the last four years. Her mother, Jessica Nunez, raised concerns that Navarro, who was diagnosed as high-functioning on the autism spectrum, may have been lured away by someone.
When Navarro disappeared on Sept. 15, 2019, she left a note in her home that read: “I ran away. I will be back, I swear. I’m sorry.”
“Every indication she’s given to us so far is that she willfully left her home,” said police Lt. Scott Waite. “Now the dynamics surrounding that decision are obviously something we’re looking into.”
Navarro’s mother told CBS News in 2021 that her daughter was an avid video game player and could have met someone online who manipulated her.
“It’s not something that happened out of the blue,” she said, “and I do believe that she was lured thinking that she was going to have some kind of adventure, party or maybe love.”
Police said Navarro told them she hadn’t been harmed, wasn’t being held and could come and go as she pleased. Authorities added that she won’t face any criminal charges.
“She is not in any kind of trouble,” Santiago said.
Waite said Navarro had an “emotionally overwhelming” reunion with her mother and was “very apologetic (as) to what she has put her mother through.”
Nunez confirmed that her daughter had been found but said she had no further details.
“I want to give glory to God for answering prayers and for this miracle,” she said in a tearful video posted to Facebook.
“For everyone who has missing loved ones, I want you to use this case as an example,” she said. “Miracles do exist. Never lose hope and always fight.”
Navarro and her family are asking for privacy, police said. Glendale police did not name the Montana town where Navarro turned up.
— With files from The Associated Press
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