A high-functioning autistic teenager who disappeared from her Arizona home one night in 2019 has been found alive in Montana.
Alicia Navarro, who was just 14 when she slipped out of her Glendale home, recently walked into a Montana police department and identified herself, Glendale police announced Wednesday.
‘She is by all accounts safe. She is by all accounts healthy, and she is by all accounts happy,’ Officer Jose Miguel Santiago said at a news conference.
It remains unclear how Navarro, now 18, traveled more than 1,000 miles alone to a small town on the border of Canada to identify herself to police.
Her mother Jessica Nuñez now says her daughter’s reappearance is proof ‘miracles do exist,’ as she urged family members of other missing people not to give up hope.
Alicia Navarro, now 18, is pictured at Glendale Police Department
Navarro had not been heard from since she left her home in the early morning hours of September 15, 2019 while her parents were sleeping (pictured before she vanished)
In a Facebook video on Wednesday, Navarro said she feels relief knowing that her daughter is alive and well
Lt. Scott Waite said that Navarro had an ’emotionally overwhelming’ reunion with her mother and was ‘very apologetic (as) to what she has put her mother through.’
Navarro had not been heard from since she left her home in the early morning hours of September 15, 2019 while her parents were sleeping.
Her disappearance sparked a massive search that included the FBI. Police spokesman Jose Santiago said over the years, police had received thousands of tips.
After hearing the news that an 18-year-old identified herself as the missing teenager, Glendale police said they immediately responded to the unspecified small town in Montana.
Officers said they were able to verify Navarro’s identity, and that she has been extremely cooperative with authorities.
‘I can’t even begin to express to you all the pride that I personally have in the men and women here at our police department,’ Santiago said.
‘Since her disappearance, our men and women here have been working tirelessly around the clock to not only bring closure to this family, but to make sure Alicia gets everything she possibly needs.’
He added that the girl ‘by all accounts appears to be in good spirits’ and ‘really just wants to move on with her life.
‘She is very apologetic to what she has put her mother though. And she understands that she has caused a lot of pain to her mother, and it was not intentional on her behalf, and she is hopeful that they can have a relationship.’
Her mother Jessica raised concerns that Navarro, who was diagnosed as high-functioning on the autism spectrum, may have been lured away by someone she met online when she disappeared in 2019.
Investigators from the police department, FBI and US Marshals Office are now trying to determine what happened to Navarro after her disappearance at the age of 14. Police said Navarro told them that she hadn’t been harmed.
‘I would ask patience, not only for us as law enforcement in this investigation, but patience for Alicia and her family,’ Glendale Police Department Lt. Scott Waite said Wednesday.
‘We can only imagine what she’s going through, mentally, emotionally, as well as her family, and as much as we’d like to say this is the end, this is probably only the beginning of where this investigation will go.’
The Glendale Police Department said they were able to confirm Navarro’s identity, and emphasized that she is safe
Over the years, Navarro’s mom, Jessica Nunez, partnered with various private investigative services, put up billboards, appeared on television programs and used social media in her efforts to find her daughter
Alicia Navarro, who was just 14 when she slipped out of her Glendale home, recently walked into a Montana police department and identified herself
Police said she wasn’t being held and could come and go as she pleased. She does not face any criminal charges, they added. ‘She is not in any kind of trouble,’ Santiago said.
Navarro went missing just one week before her 15th birthday, leaving her mother a handwritten note in her bedroom that read: ‘I ran away. I will be back, I swear. I’m sorry.’
A few days prior, Arizona Republic previously reported, the girl had asked her mother, Jessica Nunez, if she could stay home from school.
Nunez agreed, figuring her daughter was nervous about starting classes at Bourgade Catholic School in Phoenix.
The mother-daughter duo then spent the next day visiting a chocolate factory, and Nunez said her daughter seemed happy.
But that night, Navarro asked her mother what time she was going to bed, and slipped out of the house when she was asleep.
Nunez suspected Alicia may have been abducted by someone she met online gaming.
‘I’m more than 90 percent sure that my daughter met this person online,’ she claimed at the time.
The mother said her daughter was a pretty cautious person, so it would have been unusual for her to be easily lured.
‘Knowing the way my daughter’s personality is, I don’t think that she would have fallen for that,’ Nunez said. ‘This person probably took a while to be able to gain [her] trust.’
Navarro had long suspected that her daughter was abducted by someone she met online gaming, though police were never able to find any proof of that
Over the years, Nunez partnered with various private investigative services, put up billboards, appeared on television programs and used social media in her efforts to find her daughter.
Meanwhile, the Glendale Police Department followed up on thousands of leads regarding Alicia’s disappearance.
It reported last year that it was getting at least one tip a week about Navarro’s disappearance, but there was never any concrete evidence she was abducted.
Now, Nunez said in a Facebook video, she just feels relief.
‘I, first of all, want to give glory to God for answering my prayers and for this miracle,’ she said. ‘For everyone who has missing loved ones, I want you to us this case as an example that miracles do exist and never lose hope, and always fight.’
She said she didn’t yet have all the details about her daughter’s disappearance, ‘but the important thing is that she is alive.
‘I want to thank the community and God for all that you have done,’ she said.