SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – A 14-year-old Michigan girl missing for 23 days was recovered safely and her convicted murderer companion arrested without incident yesterday, after a Frito Lay delivery driver recognized their disguised truck more than 2,000 miles from the girl’s hometown.
Lindsey Ryan, who left her house in Jones, Mich., on March 1, was inside the truck, along with the driver, Terry Drake, 56, said California Highway Patrol Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick.
“She appears to be in good condition,” Helmick said, adding that her blonde hair was dyed black as a disguise.
Lindsey’s mother, Carol Ryan, walked into a news conference yesterday afternoon in Michigan’s Cass County, threw her hands up in the air and yelled, “Yay!”
“We have been waiting since March 1st to look into those (TV) cameras and say, ‘Lindsey, we’re coming to get you honey. We love you. I am so thankful that now we do know where you’re at,'” she said.
Carol Ryan said she was notified that her daughter was found alive and safe at 1:20 p.m. EST through a call from the sheriff’s department.
“It was just out of the blue,” she said. “My heart just started pounding. Right after that, I just started getting a barrage of media calls.”
She said she hopes to meet the driver who spotted her daughter: “I have got one big fat kiss for him.”
Lindsey’s father, Patrick, said the family was ecstatic.
“This is a victory for all of us. This is the result of a huge amount of effort by everyone who was involved in the search,” Patrick Ryan said. “This is the way America is supposed to work.
“It is a horrible situation that has a happy ending. You are looking at some very happy parents today.”
The Ryans expected to fly to California last night to see their daughter, the South Bend Tribune reported.
The CHP said in a statement that Ryan was cooperative and happy the incident was over, and was looking forward to being reunited with her family.
“Everybody is absolutely hysterical and elated and relieved. It’s just been a miracle,” said Lindsey’s aunt, Catherine Nichols, of Adrian, Mich. “It’s unbelievable. We are so very thrilled. It’s a godsend. We had so many people praying for us.”
The pair was spotted by the delivery truck driver about 9:50 a.m. PST in the Wayside Mini-Market parking lot in Standish, Calif., 70 miles northwest of Reno, Nev., as Drake was inside paying for gasoline. The driver called the CHP, which stopped the pair a few miles away four minutes later.
Though Drake had been considered heavily armed and dangerous, both were passive when they were arrested, Helmick said. The officer got Ryan out of the vehicle, then arrested Drake.
They were taken to the CHP’s Susanville post. Both told police they’d been camping out in a mountainous area near Susanville, and said they’d be willing to take authorities to the campsite.