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After arrest, many questions remain in Abigail Hernandez case

Abigail Hernandez

AP

Abigail Hernandez

It’s been nearly a year since New Hampshire teen Abigail Hernandez dissappeared while walking home from school, and a little more than two months since she returned to her Conway home.

Family members have said the teen “was violently abducted by a stranger,” and described her return as “miraculous” after months in captivity. But those close to the case have released few specifics about what happened, citing the pending charges against her alleged kidnapper.

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This week that suspect — Nathaniel E. Kibby, 34, of Gorham, N.H. — is expected to face grand jury investigations in two counties.

Here’s a look at what is known about the case so far.

Authorities say Kibby held Hernandez on his property

A judge’s ruling in the case last month said Hernandez could have been at Kibby’s home for at least part of the time she was missing.

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The ruling, in which Justice Pamela D. Albee barred prosecutors from moving Kibby’s trailer and a shipping container before Kibby’s lawyers have a chance to thoroughly investigate the premises, did not say whether prosecutors believe Hernandez was there the whole time.

It also did not make clear whether she was allegedly held inside Kibby’s mobile home or the shipping container on the property.

Kibby has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of kidnapping Hernandez. He is being held on $1 million cash bail.

Kibby has been in contact with law enforcement before

Kibby has a record that goes back to 1998, according to court records, when he was a student at Kennett High School in Conway. In one case, he was found guilty of grabbing a student while she attempted to board a bus.

Less than two weeks after Hernandez disappeared, Kibby faced a fine for possession of marijuana. And in March, Kibby was accused of assault and trespassing. In February he was involved in a car collision in Redstone, N.H.

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office says Kibby lives on Brookside Drive in Gorham, about an hour away from Conway. According to local records, he owns a $19,000 mobile home that measures 1,000 square feet. It is listed as having three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a small deck and shed.

Neighbors have described Kibby as a loner who “kept to himself.”

Officials have not described any suspected motive for the kidnapping.

Family and friends are keeping quiet

Family members have provided few specifics about the investigation into Hernandez’s disappearance, though they

made public pleas for her return in the months after she vanished. They also released information through a website called bringabbyhome.com.

Hernandez visited the office of her hometown New Hampshire newspaper, expressing her gratitude for the community support but revealing little about the case. While she was missing, Hernandez said, she saw the Conway Daily Sun’s listing of how long she had been gone.

READ MORE: Hernandez Hernandez visits hometown paperThough family members have discussed her condition and their emotional response to her return, they have not gone into detail about what might have happened to her.

In the days after she came back, Abigail’s mother Zenya Hernandez was quoted in a Today Show interview, in which she sought to dismiss speculation about the case.

“The majority of people somehow believe that she was pregnant,’’ Zenya said, according to Today. “She was not. She did not run away. I firmly believe that. As for her knowing the individual, I firmly believe that she did not know the individual.”

Hernandez’s supporters also distributed a statement on her behalf.

“I wish that I could personally thank everyone who looked for me. My gratitude is beyond words,” the statement said. “It’s an incredible feeling to be home and I believe in my heart that your hopes and prayers played a major role in my release. Thank you all for the welcome home.”

Hernandez’s family said after her return that she was facing medical issues and had lost a considerable amount of weight. They also said she had been speaking with investigators. Hernandez also appeared in court for Kibby’s arraignment.

A lawyer for Hernandez posted on the support website last month that the family needs privacy as she recovers.

For many months, she suffered numerous acts of unspeakable violence,” attorney Michael Coyne wrote on behalf of the Hernandez family. “Through her faith, fortitude and resilience, she is alive today and home with her family.”

She got in contact with her family while she was missing

A letter to Abigail from her mother

FBI

A letter to Abigail from her mother

Law enforcement officials said Hernandez wrote a letter to her mother two months after she dissapeared. That letter became a “critical” lead in the case, they said, though they didn’t release much information about what it said. Experts examined the letter and determined it to be authentic.

Hernandez’s mother had sent her a public message in November, saying she did not believe Hernandez was dead, and she hoped her daughter would reach out to her.

“Abby, you are a strong young woman and I am staying strong for you,” Zenya Hernandez wrote in the letter. “You are courageous, you are smart, and you are beautiful.”

The case is unusual

Advocates say it’s unusual for a child to return after being missing for so long.

“Usually within a week or two, they’re gone,” Mike O’Neal, a former sheriff’s deputy who runs the Maine nonprofit Keeping Kids Safe, said after Hernandez returned.

Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.
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