Cops probing how an Alabama woman survived naked and alone in woods for nearly a month think she may have got lost because she was high on drugs, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Student radiologist Lisa Theris spent 25 days stumbling about in circles in dense forest despite never being more than a mile from the nearest road.
Baffled investigators now suspect the former Hooters waitress may have been disorientated and suffering from hallucinations brought on by taking methamphetamine.
The two men she allegedly took drugs with, meanwhile, were so sure the 25-year-old was dead they started accusing one another of killing her.
One inexplicably told investigators that the other had shot Theris in the head and thrown her body in a creek, leading authorities on a futile two-day search involving cadaver dogs and divers.
Survivor: Lisa Theri told local television channel WSFA about the 25 days she spent lost and naked in the woods of Alabama before being rescued – but did not address how she got there. Now DailyMail.com can reveal what police believe really happened
Before and after: Lisa Theris was pictured in her hospital bed after being found but was captired in a mugshoton June 8, the last known picture of Theris before she went missing. It was taken when she was booked into custody after disorderly conduct at Coffee County Court in Enterprise, AL. Her time in custody had not been previously revealed
Final sighting: The Midway Hunting Lodge, off Pleasant Hill Road, was a key clue to Theris. It was where Manly Davis and Randy Oswald each claimed the other man had killed her, even though she was actually alive and still in the woods
In custody: Manly Davis (left) and Randy Oswald (right) were arrested during the time that Theris was in the woods, and both believed to be connected with her disappearance
Ordeal: Lisa Theris revealed the impact on her body of being missing for such a long time. But now police say they believe she was high on drugs
Scratched: The time she spent in the woods left Lisa Theris scratched and having lost 40lbs. But now it can be revealed she was in custody beforehand, and law enforcement believe she took drugs
The petite brunette finally emerged from the 2,000-acre parcel of woodland in Midway, Alabama last Saturday afternoon.
A passing motorist spotted her staggering along the highway, caked in mud and covered head to toe in insect bites. She had lost about 45 lbs but was otherwise unharmed.
Now safely reunited with her family, Theris has given a series of TV interviews recalling how she lived off berries and wild mushrooms, drinking water from muddy puddles and creeks.
But DailyMail.com can reveal her extraordinary claims have split opinion among locals and law enforcement, some of whom refuse to accept her ‘miraculous’ survival is what it seems.
It can also be revealed for the first time how her life spiraled towards drugs and criminality in the months before her disappearance, culminating with a trip to jail for disorderly conduct.
In the 25 days she was missing there were no confirmed sightings of Theris.
The Troy Police Department even received a tip-off that she was shopping in Walmart but when they checked the store’s CCTV they could not spot her on any of the footage.
Theris, who suffers from bipolar disorder and is legally blind due to a chronic eye condition, was reported missing by her father Bill on July 23, five days after he last heard from her.
By then family and friends in her rural hometown of Louisville, Alabama – population 477 – were already concerned that Theris had fallen in with a bad crowd.
Theris had been living in Mobile with a boyfriend, Duston Reed, 32, and working as a waitress but when they split in February she moved back in with her parents and enrolled at community college.
‘I didn’t have a job at that time and I wasn’t able to look after her financially,’ Reed told DailyMail.com.
Found: This is the road junction where Lisa Theris was found – ending a possible murder investigation because it was clear that there was no victim despite the two men she was last seen with accusing each other of killing her
Burglary: The first intelligence police gained about Lisa Theris was when they investigated the burglary of the Midway Hunting. Manly Davis told deputies that the young woman leaped out of their truck as they attempted to ram the metal entry gates and fled. Randy Oswald told them Davis had shot the girl in the head, placed her body in a garbage bag and tossed it into a creek
Search: Police deployed cadaver dogs and divers as they search in and around this lake on the Midway Hunting Lodge property
Split: Lisa Theris and former boyfriend Duston Reed had lived together in Mobile where she was working as a waitress but when they split in February she moved back in with her parents and enrolled at community college. He told DailyMail.com she had struggled with the split
‘I think she took the split pretty bad. We stayed real close, we talked about getting back together. But I did have concerns though that she was staying out late, mixing with the wrong people.’
On June 8 Theris attended a friend’s court hearing in Coffee County, Alabama and was thrown out of the courthouse for disorderly conduct.
Circuit Clerk James Counts told DailyMail.com she continued to cause a disturbance outside and was arrested and booked into the county jail before being released on bail.
‘She got out of line, that’s my understanding,’ Counts said. ‘She told deputies she didn’t have to do what she was told so they arrested her.’
The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum of three months in prison but more likely a fine of up to $500 for a first offense.
However two days before Theris re-emerged from the wilderness prosecutors dropped the case, presuming she was dead.
The two friends last seen with her were Randall Wade Oswald, 36, and Manley Green Davis, 31, both from the nearby town of Troy where they were well known to law enforcement because of previous arrests for petty crime and drugs.
Oswald, an air conditioning engineer, insisted Davis was the last to see Theris alive. Manley said the opposite but failed to come in for questioning and fled when an officer from the Troy Police Department tried to pull him over.
The breakthrough came when the pair were linked to the burglary of a remote woodland hunting lodge 40 miles away in the early hours of July 19, just hours after Theris last spoke to her family.
More than $40,000 worth of property, including ATVs and trailers had been loaded onto a truck which was caught on security camera as it drove in and out.
The two friends admitted they were there and confirmed Theris was with them – but gave wildly differing accounts of what happened next.
Misdemeanor warrant: When she vanished, Lisa Theris was facing another court date over her charge. But the most likely outcome was simply a $500 fine, so it appears unlikely to be part of the reason for her disappearing
Davis told deputies from the Bullock County Sheriff’s Office that the young woman leaped out of their truck as they attempted to ram the metal entry gates and fled.
Oswald, whose father George manages the hunting lodge, told them Davis had shot the girl in the head, placed her body in a garbage bag and tossed it into creek.
Deputies focused on a lake behind the lodge but divers and cadaver dogs failed to locate any remains.
‘We did a lot of ghost-hunting,’ Bullock County Sheriff Raymond Rodgers told DailyMail.com. ‘They were so geeked out that they started blaming each other for a murder that didn’t happen.
‘They were as relieved as we were when she walked out of those woods. They were thinking they killed her.’
Davis and Oswald are currently in jail charged with first degree theft of property and third degree burglary. Sheriff Rodgers has not ruled out charging Theris.
However she is sticking to her story that she didn’t want any part in the raid and fled into the trees to escape Oswald and Davis.
Theris told deputies she tore off her red shirt because she was afraid they would see it and come after her. She was without a cell phone because it was damaged several weeks earlier in a car crash.
Theris says she can remember little else before waking up some time later – possibly hours or even days – alone and naked.
The patch of woodland in which she supposedly spent the next 25 days surviving off the land is a mixture of dense forest and overgrown fields.
It’s roughly one mile from Mt Pleasant Road, where she crossed the tree-line, to Highway 82, where she was found, close to the junction with Turner Road.
Traffic from the 82 can be heard faintly from Mt Pleasant Road. Even at its widest point several miles south, it’s estimated it would take less than a day to walk from one side of the woods to the other.
There are numerous hunting tracks, hides and even power lines that lead out of the undergrowth.
But judging by the emaciated, bedraggled state Theris was in when she finally emerged, Sheriff Rodgers believes she remained in the woods the entire time. She was covered in cuts, bites and poison ivy welts.
Her hair was matted, she was missing her glasses and he estimates she had lost 45 lbs. ‘We are thinking they were all pretty much on drugs,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘Me personally, I think she was on meth, she was hallucinating and she just got lost in the woods.
‘She was probably so under the influence on drugs that she stripped her clothes off. She was in a strange place, she came to, she didn’t know where she was.
‘I don’t know how much drugs she took but I believe she was in there the whole time.’
Working theory: Sheriff Raymond Rodgers told DailyMail.com: ‘Me personally, I think she was on meth, she was hallucinating and she just got lost in the woods.’
Involvement: Sgt. Chad Faulkner, who led the investigation for the Bullock County Sheriff’s Office, says he has no evidence to suggest Theris is lying, however incredible her story may sound. George Oswald, the father of Randall Oswald, says his son has questions to answer but adds: ‘But if she’s a sweet little princess who got lost in the woods for all this time then I’m the f***ing Pope – it’s just not possible.’
Recovering a life: Lisa Theris went on local television channel WSFA and offered little insight into what happened. The former Hooters waitress’s family said she did not want to speak to DailyMail.com
Residents living in the handful of homes along Mt Pleasant Road, however, simply don’t believe it’s possible that someone could remain lost in a relatively small area for so long.
They also point out the considerable dangers lurking in the undergrowth, from coyotes to rattle snakes, moccasin snakes and poisonous spiders.
Temperatures for that period were frequently in the 90s and as high as 98F. Most indignant of all, is Oswald’s 56-year-old father George, who has hunted and worked in the woods around Midway for most of his life.
‘I’m extremely p***ed with my son, he’s embarrassed my name, he’s stolen from my good friends and he’s got a lot of questions to answer,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘But if she’s a sweet little princess who got lost in the woods for all this time then I’m the f***ing Pope – it’s just not possible.’
Oswald Snr says he spent two days combing the area by quad bike himself looking for signs of Theris.
Across the road he saw multi-agency search teams with dozens of people looking for her for days at a time.
‘This time of year there ain’t no berries out there. You will see a few mushrooms but not enough to live on for 25 days,’ he said.
‘And how does a 25-year-old girl determine the difference between a good mushroom and a bad mushroom?
‘If she really did last that long out there by herself with no clothes and shoes she needs to be hired by the US Marine Corps to show them how to do it.’
DailyMail.com requested an interview with Theris but her 27-year-old sister Elizabeth, one of nine siblings, said she was feverish and unable to speak with us.
Asked about her sister’s alleged use of drugs, she said: ‘I haven’t pushed her too much on anything. It’s upsetting to her that she can’t remember what happened.’
Elizabeth said it was ridiculous, however, to suggest that Theris may have stayed in the woods voluntarily to avoid being drawn into the burglary investigation.
I haven’t pushed her too much on anything. It’s upsetting to her that she can’t remember what happened
Theris’s sister, Elizabeth
‘Anybody who would have seen the state she was in would say it was idiotic to suggest that,’ she said.
‘Why would you put yourself through the risk of dehydration and death just to get off a burglary charge? Why would she put her family thought this ordeal?
‘People say that if you walk in a straight line you will find something but how do you know what a straight line is if you can’t see properly.
‘She told me she stayed by a source of water and screamed for help. The bottom of her feet are all cut up. She crawled on her hands and knees. She made a walking stick out of a branch.
‘We took her to the doctor and the dermatologist and they said that some of these scars will never go away.’
Davis and Oswald remain in the Bullock County Jail on $250,000 bond, charged solely in relation to the burglary.
There are currently no plans to reinstate the disorderly conduct charge against Theris.
Sgt. Chad Faulkner, who led the investigation for the Bullock County Sheriff’s Office, says he has no evidence to suggest Theris is lying, however incredible her story may sound.
He’s well aware his findings may not satisfy everyone’s desire for a sensational ending.
‘You can’t base this scenario off of a TV show, you have to follow the evidence that’s in front of you’, he told DailyMail.com.
‘This is a unique story, we still need some answers but we are not gullible or stupid. We are simply going off all the evidence.’