CONCORD, N.H. (CBS/AP) — Calling it “unprecedented,” law enforcement officials announced during a news conference on Friday that a missing New Hampshire teenager who disappeared two months ago on her way home from school wrote a letter to her mother that was postmarked two weeks after her disappearance.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Doug Cope reports
Police say an extensive examination of the letter, which was dated October 22 and postmarked October 23, indicates it most likely came from 15-year-old Abigail Hernandez, who remains missing.
Investigators say the letter was received on November 6.
Officials say they kept quiet about the letter for a month out of fear that releasing it publicly would compromise the investigation.
“When we received this letter, I will tell you it was unprecedented. We have not seen anything like that in recent times in other investigations. But most importantly, it gave us hope,” said Kieran Ramsey, the FBI special agent in charge who is leading the investigation.
Authorities refused to disclose its contents or indicate where it may have been sent from, saying they are concerned the information could produce hoax letters. They also would not explain why the letter spent two weeks in the mail.
Officials did plead with the public for help finding Hernandez, saying they hoped the case would gain national attention.
“We have grave concerns for Abby’s safety,” she said. “(The letter) doesn’t give us a lot of comfort based on what we have seen.”
While questions have arisen over whether Hernandez may have run away, Asst. Attorney General Young said the child’s disappearance is still being classified as a missing persons case.
“Other than that letter, there has been no contact. We are concerned for her safety. She is not out there alone. She has somebody who is either helping her, whether that be a friend, or what we fear is a foe,” Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said.
Ramsey noted that one of eight endangered runaways ends up being sexually exploited.
“Though she could have left willingly, someone now could be coercing her,” he said. “Someone now may be manipulating her.”
Asked if Abigail had run away before, Young said: “This is not a characteristic that we have seen before from her.”
Police asked people to be on the lookout for the dark-haired girl. They said neighbors should think if a young lady recently moved into the area.
Young said because Abigail has no financial means, police believe she’s getting help “either from a friend or, as we fear, a foe.”
“We implore Abby that if she hears this, if she’s able to see this, contact us,” she said. “We will do everything we can to reunite her with her mother. If it’s a good citizen, a good Samaritan who has her who thinks you’re helping her, I can assure you, you’re not.”
Hernandez was last seen after leaving Kennett High School in North Conway. Police have said she walked her normal route toward home and sent several text messages to a friend between 2:30 and 3 p.m. At first, police said she made it home but they later said that was untrue. Police also at first said she made a call about 6:30 that night but later said that, too, was untrue.
The last signal her phone sent was at 3:07 p.m. from the west side of Cranmore Mountain Resort, 2.5 miles from her home.
Since she vanished, police have consistently said they have no evidence to suggest anything suspicious and are treating this like a missing person’s case.
Police also released photos of a necklace and a handbag that she may have been carrying the day she went missing.
A $20,000 reward and activation of the FBI’s tip line, 1-800-CALL-FBI, have yielded a few leads but no solid information. Her family has made pleas for her safe return and the community has rallied around them, holding vigils, helping search, printing posters and sponsoring billboards seeking information.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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