CONWAY — Authorities made an appeal to the public Tuesday, asking anyone who might have seen Abigail Hernandez the night she returned home to contact them.
Hernandez, 15, was reunited with her family late Sunday night. But authorities apparently need more information than Abigail is giving.
“Investigators continue to conduct interviews and review videotape surveillance from the businesses in the area surrounding the Hernandez home to gain answers to the many questions surrounding the disappearance and return of Abigail,” a news release issued Tuesday by the Attorney General’s Office said.
Hernandez was wearing the same black pants and gray, striped sweater she had on the day she disappeared in October 2013, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young.
Police want to talk to anyone who saw "Abigail Hernandez or a female" wearing the pants and sweater and carrying a camouflage-print drawstring bag in the area of North South Road Sunday between 10 and 10:30 p.m.
“All this means is we are trying to find out all the facts in this investigation,” Young said. “This girl was 15 and missing for nine months. To the extent that someone helped her, if it rises to the level of criminal activity, that person will be brought to justice.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact state police at 271-3636 or the Conway police at 356-5715.
“Until such time that law enforcement officials have a comprehensive understanding of the facts surrounding Abigail’s disappearance and nine-month absence, there will be no further press briefings,” the news release said.
An expert in missing persons cases said police are likely considering charges against a man or woman who helped Abigail to “go dark,” as police put it.
“It’s hard enough, almost impossible, for an adult to disappear and leave no traces, but this 15-year-old girl did it, obviously with some help,” said Bill Barry, a retired 17-year veteran tracker and missing-child investigator with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department.
Barry said it is rare for a missing-persons case of this magnitude to result in the person coming home safely.
“Law enforcement is going to lean toward foul play involved, because usually these cases do not have a good ending,” he said.
Barry said a case involving an 18-year-old would be different. “An 18-year-old could have made plans to disappear; she could have made plans to have a different life, she could have money saved, credit cards ... but this was a 15-year-old with no source of income or no way to take care of herself,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that when she left, she knew exactly where she was going,” he said.
Young would not comment when asked how much the nine-month investigation has cost.
“Probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, when you look at all the agencies involved,” Barry said.
Authorities have not released details of how Abigail arrived at her mother’s home Sunday. Young said the case is “fluid and dynamic” and that authorities “will continue to investigate whether charges are warranted.”
“We have the same questions everyone else has, and we are working hard to find the answers,” Young said.
Abigail’s mother, Zenya Hernandez, has asked for privacy for the time being. Her father, Ruben Hernandez of Bartlett, said he was thankful for his daughter’s return, whatever the circumstances.
“First and foremost I thank God. I thank Him that Abby returned to us alive and well. This is a testimony to answered prayer,” he said.
“I am also grateful to everyone that took the time to express their thoughts and prayers, and to those that put time and expense to the effort in finding Abby. I would especially like to thank volunteers Paul Kirsch and Amanda Smith for going beyond the call.”