CONWAY, N.H. — The case of a New Hampshire teenager who had been missing for nine months took a dramatic turn Sunday when the girl was reunited with her family, although no details on where she was and how she came back were revealed by authorities.
Officials said Monday that Abigail Hernandez, 15, was safe and back with her family, after vanishing after school Oct. 9, 2013.
“We are quite literally still in the throes of getting clarity on this,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, which oversees operations in New Hampshire.
The news brought instant joy from Hernandez’s family in the village of North Conway.
Her mother, Zenya, asked for privacy in a statement released through the attorney general’s office Monday afternoon.
“Today we are the happiest people on earth,” she said.
Jane E. Young, an assistant attorney general, also declined to provide details, but said that some investigators had been working on the case for 36 straight hours by Monday night. She said that Hernandez, who was last seen at Kennett High School, first saw her family late Sunday.
“We are focusing all our efforts and energies on trying to get as much information as we can,” Young said.
Asked if Hernandez was healthy, Young replied: “Her condition is good. It’s a good day.”
Zenya Hernandez led efforts to spread word about her missing daughter on Facebook, Twitter, and a personal website, bringabbyhome.com.
She offered a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that could lead to the girl’s safe return.
The FBI additionally offered a $20,000 reward, and, according to bringabbyhome.com, Hernandez’s father added $30,000.
It was not clear if a tip led to the girl’s return. “Right now we’re just glad to see that she’s home,” said Ramsey.
Late Monday, a detective sat outside Hernandez’s home in an apartment complex bordered by tall trees set back from a main road in North Conway.
In the thick green woods lining one road into town, a red and white billboard remained standing with a picture of a smiling Hernandez under the word missing in boldface type.
Friends of Hernandez could not be located late Monday. Some had teamed with her mother earlier this year to post pleas for her return on the Internet.
Forlorn, they wrote about silly movies in science class, singing Beatles songs, and chatting on Facebook late into the night.
On Monday, Neal Moylan, the principal of Kennett High, said he was awaiting more information before planning any gatherings or counseling for Hernandez’s classmates.
“We’re happy that she’s home, that’s for sure, and we’re waiting for some further details,” he said.
Town Manager Earl Sires declined to comment, saying the attorney general’s office was handling the investigation and he did not know the details of Hernandez’s return. Conway police referred all questions to the attorney general.
Hernandez disappeared days before her 15th birthday. Several weeks later, on Nov. 6, her mother received a letter dated Oct. 22, purportedly from her daughter. Authorities did not release details of the contents of the letter but continued to treat Hernandez’s case as a missing persons investigation.
Mike O’Neal, a former sheriff’s deputy who runs the Maine nonprofit Keeping Kids Safe, said Hernandez’s return after she was missing for so long is a relatively rare occurrence.
“Usually within a week or two, they’re gone,” said O’Neal, whose organization shared missing persons alerts online for Hernandez.
O’Neal could not comment specifically on Hernandez’s case without more information on the investigation, but he said the family’s efforts on social media helped to keep the teenager’s story relevant long after she was last seen.