Connie McCallister -- a Wisconsin woman who went missing in 2004 at the age of 16 -- has been found alive and living in Mexico with her three children.
McCallister, now 26, vanished on Aug. 15, 2004. Police always suspected she was in Mexico, but had little evidence to go on. According to the Daily Mail, McCallister -- an honor-roll student at Athens High School when she went missing -- was found after a church missionary reported seeing her to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Details of her disappearance haven’t been officially confirmed, but McCallister’s aunt, Florence Volzka, told the Associated Press she spoke with McCallister via Skype in September. “I never gave up any hope of her,” Volzka said. “I always thought she would find a way home. She is very close knit with the family.”
Volzka told the AP that McCallister said she had been drugged and brought to Mexico against her will by her then-boyfriend. After she was beaten badly, hospital staff helped her change her identity. With no knowledge of the Spanish language and no way to prove her identity, McCallister was unable to contact her family in the United States.
Eventually, she married a man in Mexico and had three daughters, now aged 3, 5 and 7.
Police have said they believe the woman in question is indeed Connie McCallister. “We have confirmed, through conversations on Skype, that this is really Connie, and she did ask for help in getting home,” Wausau Police Captain Greg Hagenbucher said. "But she won't come back without her children.”
“She’s excited and she’s cautious and she knows it’s going to be whole new world again and she’s afraid,” Volzka said. “There are a lot of adjustments.”
According to the AP, U.S. Consulate officials are working to gather the documents and records necessary to bring McCallister home.
"We want to use this as an example for families with missing relatives to never give up hope," said Judy Weise, who is part of a fundraising effort help McCallister and her children when they return to the United States, according to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. "There's always a chance their loved one could come home. Don't ever give up hope."