HAMILTON — A 2-year-old girl was discovered on the side of a back road Friday morning, naked, dazed, and bruised, hours after her disappearance in the middle of the night prompted an intense police search by land and air in the quiet neighborhood around her home.
Lyndon Albers was sitting alone, just inches from the pavement of Newbury Road in Rowley, her shaved head showing a large bruise, when Tom Crosby of Ipswich noticed her as he was driving his wife, Marge, to the gift shop she owns in Amesbury.
“I wrapped her up and put her in my car, where it was warm, because she was just sitting there shivering,” Crosby said outside his Ipswich home Friday night. “She was completely naked.”
His wife’s 911 call alerted authorities just as they were about to issue an Amber Alert for the girl, who had last been seen at 3 a.m. The girl was taken to the hospital and reunited with her parents, to the great relief of relatives and worried residents in this small North Shore town.
But answers to her mysterious disappearance remained elusive, law enforcement officials acknowledged.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and a bunch of the pieces are missing,” Russell Stevens, the town’s police chief, said at a news conference outside the Hamilton police station.
Stevens did not say if police had any indication on how the girl went missing, but said other parents did not need to be alarmed.
“I am very excited that she was found alive,’’ he said. “I am ecstatic that she is being reunited with her parents.”
Authorities said the girl’s disappearance was being treated as a crime, and investigators searched the Albers’s Lincoln Avenue home as well as the area along Newbury Road in Rowley, where the toddler was found.
The girl was taken to Beverly Hospital before she was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital.
The couple also has a 4-year-old daughter. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families said the agency was investigating the incident but did not say whether Lyndon had been placed in state custody.
The girl’s parents called police around 7 a.m., some four hours after she had last been seen, Stevens said. Soon, helicopters were whirring overhead, investigators with search dogs scoured the area.
State Police posted a picture of the blond toddler — smiling as she played in mud near a sprinkler — and nervous residents hoped for the best.
After she was found, a man who identified himself as her uncle expressed his gratitude on social media.
“Thank you everyone for your concerns,’’ Ken Albers wrote on his Twitter account. “My niece has been found.’’
In the early stages of the search, authorities asked officials at Gordon College, a Christian school in Wenham, about a woman who was a student there, said college spokesman Richard Sweeney. Sweeney said the school checked its records and found that the woman had attended for one year before dropping out.
“It’s not someone who has a connection to the college,’’ Sweeney said.
Bob Morse Jr., who lives on the road where the girl was found, said he saw a man and a woman get out of a car, and that the area was later taped off.
“The police called and said to stay inside, but they said there’s no threat to the neighborhood,” he said. “It makes me wonder.”
On Lincoln Avenue, neighbors watched from a distance as police searched the family’s home. The little girl was precious, one said, and she was grateful she had been found. But the idea of her left alone in the dark, cold and scared, was heartbreaking, she said.
“Who could do something like that?” she said.
Travis Andersen, Martin Finucane, and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Felicia Gans contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete. Kathy McCabe can be reached at Katherine.McCabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @globekmccabe.