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The Pike County, Ind., teenager who disappeared Thursday afternoon was found safe – although dehydrated and scratched up – in a woody thicket about a mile from her home Sunday.
Pike County Sheriff Todd Meadors said 16-year-old Chelsea Manning had left home voluntarily and had left a note behind.
“It was not a suicide note; it was more of a good-bye note,” he said. “She had been depressed and was on some medication. We don’t know if that was involved or if she fell asleep or passed out.”
A tent was found near the thicket, but Meadors said it did not appear to be connected to the case. From the condition of Manning’s clothes, he said it’s unlikely she had been in the tent.
The note said the girl “was going to visit her grandmother,” Meadors said. “Her grandmother was deceased and we thought that meant she was going to the cemetery where her grandmother was. This was in a direct path to the cemetery.”
He said Manning also might have become disoriented in the woods. Meadors said the girl called out for help when she spotted a fisherman in a nearby stripper pit.
“If she hadn’t called, we would never have found her,” Meadors said. “There was so much debris at that location, we wouldn’t have spotted her.”
He said the fisherman, who was not identified, had driven to the stripper pit Sunday morning. As he was fishing, he heard someone yell. He couldn’t see anyone, but went to shore and started searching and found Manning nearly hidden by the foliage and bushes.
Manning told the fisherman her home telephone number, and he called her parents on his cellular phone. The sheriff’s department was notified at 9:09 a.m. of where she was, and both her father and a sheriff’s deputy went to the scene.
The area, owned by coal mining companies, is rugged, the sheriff said. More than 200 people searched the area around the girl’s home Saturday but did not find her.
Meadors said the girl was conscious, coherent and talking. She was taken to Deaconess Hospital and was being treated in the emergency room. He said although her disappearance was voluntary, investigators still want to make sure no one else was involved.
Meadors said Manning’s parents did not wish to speak with the media.