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Town hopes for answers after missing teen returns

  • 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)

    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)

  • Joe Downs, owner of the Naked Bohemian boutique, talks in his store Tuesday July 22, 2014, in Conway, N.H. Downs had a missing poster in his storefront window of missing teen Abigail Hernandez who disappeared who Oct. 9, 2013. N.H. 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)

    Joe Downs, owner of the Naked Bohemian boutique, talks in his store Tuesday July 22, 2014, in Conway, N.H. Downs had a missing poster in his storefront window of missing teen Abigail Hernandez who disappeared who Oct. 9, 2013. N.H. 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)

  • 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)

    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 -  This undated file photo provided by the Conway, N.H., Police Department, shows Abigail Hernandez, 14, of North Conway, N.H., 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/Conway Police Department, File)

    FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Conway, N.H., Police Department, shows Abigail Hernandez, 14, of North Conway, N.H., 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/Conway Police Department, File)

  • 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)

    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)

  • 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)
  • Joe Downs, owner of the Naked Bohemian boutique, talks in his store Tuesday July 22, 2014, in Conway, N.H. Downs had a missing poster in his storefront window of missing teen Abigail Hernandez who disappeared who Oct. 9, 2013. N.H. 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)
  • 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 -  This undated file photo provided by the Conway, N.H., Police Department, shows Abigail Hernandez, 14, of North Conway, N.H., 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/Conway Police Department, File)
  • 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)

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 Joe 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 yesterday, 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.”

The 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.

The 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. The police have not revealed the contents of the letter.

Foster said the criminal investigation into Abigail’s disappearance will continue. After she vanished, the 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. The 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 yesterday, 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.”

Legacy Comments4

Here is some speculation: 9 months...pregnancy?

That has been suggested, cloudbumper, but if so, the game had to be up with that letter of 'several months ago'. Wouldn't that have been the time to spill the beans to the public, and diffuse the situation? Instead, Abigail maintained 'Missing Person' status for the entire nine months. To me, that suggests the elapsed time she's been gone is probably just coincidental. Now if Wabbit had 'kicked the bucket' just before Abigail disappeared...

Her parents' request for privacy seems a tad suspicious, and at least one step ahead of protocol. Tell us what the hell happened to your daughter, whom we've been searching for during the last 9 months, and we'll give you all the privacy you want. If it turns out Abigail simply ran away on her own, then her parents should pay for the rescue effort. It appears they want privacy from the truth. I say, "Bill 'em, Danno!".

I hope for reimbursement for the tax dollars spent on her search.

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