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Missing since October, Abby Hernandez is home

Union Leader Correspondent

July 22. 2014 5:53PM

Abby Hernandez 
Timeline: Abigail letter is seen as a key clue
Oct. 9, 2013: Abigail Hernandez was last seen walking home from Kennett High School, where she was a freshman.

Oct. 11, 2013: On the eve of her 15th birthday, the search continued. Jane Young, senior assistant attorney general, said the Attorney General's Office, which typically takes over homicide investigations, was in Conway to help search for Abigail. "This is strictly a missing person case," Young said.

Oct. 18, 2013: Authorities announce a $20,000 reward for information leading to Abigail's return, for an arrest in her case, or for any other information that helps authorities find her. "It's obviously our hope that our reward offer will generate new tips and leads," said Kieran L. Ramsey, an FBI special agent from Boston.

Nov. 7, 2013: Ruben Hernandez of Bartlett, Abigail's father, called for an Amber Alert to be issued. But investigators said they were going by New Hampshire's Amber Alert law, which has strict criteria. One requires that authorities have enough descriptive information about the child, abductor, and/or suspect's vehicle to believe an immediate alert will help.

Dec. 7, 2013: Authorities disclose the existence of a letter investigators believe Hernandez wrote her mother. The letter was dated Oct. 22, postmarked Oct 23 and received by Abigail's mother in Conway on Nov. 6. She brought it to investigators' attention that day, Young said. Investigators did not initially disclose the letter because they first needed to run tests on it — including DNA testing, handwriting and fingerprint analysis — to confirm its authenticity, she said. "We believe, in fact, it was written by Abigail and it was sent to her mother," Young said. "This was a critical lead...It was one of the most tangible leads we've had in the investigation."

Dec. 11, 2013: Authorities say they have made progress in the search, but still need to keep parts of the investigation secret, especially because the case, now two months old, has become unusual. "People have to ask themselves, what would you want if your 15-year-old was missing? This is our response for a missing child; it's been the same for many previous cases, each case is different, but we always bring all the resources possible to find people."

Dec. 30, 2013: Law enforcement investigators had little reaction to statements last week by the father of Abigail Hernandez indicating that the missing 15-year-old ran away from home. In a Christmas letter to Abigail, Ruben Hernandez included this statement to his daughter: "Abby I am assuming that you did run away," he wrote.

Feb. 20: Law enforcement officials said they have no update to offer other than the search for the 15-year-old continues. "The facts and circumstances surrounding Abigail's disappearance continue to be actively investigated ... Further details will be provided once it has been determined that releasing additional information will not compromise the integrity of the on-going criminal investigation," authorities said.

May 19: After Zenya Hernandez upped the reward by $10,000 on May 8 for information leading to her daughter's return using her own money, her ex-husband added $30,000 to the reward offer from his pocket, bringing the total to $60,000.

CONWAY — More than nine months after her disappearance, 15-year-old Abigail Hernandez is now united with her family and is in good health, authorities said. But questions remain.

“This is an ongoing criminal investigation; she was 14 years old and she could not have facilitated all of this on her own,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said Monday.

The Kennett High School freshman was last seen walking home from school on Oct. 9, 2013. Her disappearance sparked a massive search that involved hundreds of volunteers, the Attorney General’s Office, FBI, the state police Major Crime Unit and local police.

“Abby was reunited with her family late Sunday evening; she is in good condition, but that’s all I can say about that,” Young said. “The investigation continued through (Sunday night) and is ongoing as we try to answer the questions of where she’s been for the past nine months.”

Abigail sent a letter to her mother a few weeks after her disappearance, but authorities refused to disclose the letter’s contents.

In a news release Monday, authorities said: “The facts and circumstances surrounding Abigail’s disappearance continue to be actively investigated ... Further details will be provided once it has been determined that releasing additional information will not compromise the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigation.”

Zenya Hernandez, Abigail’s mother, told the Union Leader Monday night: “Today we are the happiest people on earth,” but would not comment further.

Amanda Smith, one of the volunteers who conducted social media campaigns in hopes of finding Abigail, said Abigail’s family and friends are overjoyed.

“I can’t begin to say how happy we are, or how relieved we are,” she said. “Zenya (Hernandez) says thank you to everyone for the help and support. We never lost hope.”

On his Facebook page, volunteer Paul Kirsch said of the volunteers who helped search for Abigail, “it reminds me of all that is good in my community and the world.”

On the Bring Abby Home web page, a message was posted Monday night.

“Abby is safely home with her mom and sister!! Family requests privacy right now. Thank you to everyone who has shared fliers, offered help and support. We can’t thank you enough!! We will keep you all updated.”

Young thanked the public for helping during the investigation and said, “we continue to welcome the public’s assistance as the investigation continues.”

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