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Missing N.H. teen’s letter a ‘critical lead,’ police say

Fifteen-year-old Abigail Hernandez, who disappeared nearly two months ago after leaving her high school, wrote her mother a letter, police said.Conway Police Department/AP File

The mother of missing New Hampshire teenager Abigail Hernandez received a letter from her last month that has provided a “critical lead” in the case, law enforcement officials said Friday.

While they released few details about the letter, the officials urged the public to be vigilant for new faces in the community. “Look at your neighbor,” said Associate Attorney General Jane Young. “Look at the grocery store. Look at your church. Is there someone . . . you haven’t seen before?

“We are concerned for her safety; she is not out there alone,” Young said at a press conference at the New Hampshire Department of Justice in Concord, N.H.

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Fifteen-year-old Abigail Hernandez, who disappeared nearly two months ago after leaving her high school, wrote her mother a letter, police said.Conway Police Department/AP file

Hernandez went missing Oct. 9 after leaving Kennett High School in Conway. The letter was dated Oct. 22 and postmarked Oct. 23. Her mother, Zenya Hernandez, did not receive it until Nov. 6, and it was turned over the same day to authorities, Young said.

Young said the letter had been examined by specialists and determined to be authentic. She said it was written in “a tone that Abby would have used” but released no other details about it.

Young did not say why there was a delay in delivery of the letter to Zenya Hernandez. She said in a later interview that there was an ordinary explanation for it and that the reason “was not alarming to us.”

Hernandez was 14 when she went missing but has since turned 15.

Asked if the case was now considered a runaway case, Young said at the press conference, “We are still classifying this as a missing persons case. We have grave concerns for Abby’s safety.”

She also said, “I ask you, if this is your child, what would you want law enforcement to do?”

Kieran Ramsey, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s New Hampshire office said at the press conference that the letter was “unprecedented” among recent cases.

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“Our worst fear right now is that though she could have left willingly, someone may now be coercing her . . . manipulating her,” he said.

He said Hernandez could be a potential target for sexual exploitation. She’s a “15-year-old endangered juvenile female that has no independent financial means, so she’s certainly at risk,” he said.

Conway Police Chief Ed Wagner said, “It certainly is our hope that Abby will be coming home soon.”

He appealed to people to report “somebody new in their community that moved into a home recently that has a young lady living in their house.”

Wagner and Young said at the press conference that officials had recently received new information that they were surprised they had not received before. They did not say what that information was.

The officials also showed photos of a pocketbook and necklace that they believe may be in Hernandez’s possession.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the recovery of Hernandez or the identification of whoever is responsible for her disappearance.

The FBI asked anyone with information about the case to contact the FBI’s toll free tip line at 800-CALL-FBI, Conway police at 603-356-5717, their local FBI office, or the nearest US embassy or consulate.


Martin Finucane can be reached at mfinucane@
globe .com.