ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: A missing juvenile from Etowah County was located and apprehended in Florida.
Investigator Stephen Hooks says Tampa Police found 17-year-old Jessica Bunch in a Walmart Supercenter in Tampa, and later took her to a shelter.
Hooks says by all accounts, she's fine.
“She’s in good health, she wasn’t harmed, seemed to be in good spirits. She was there on her own accord, she wasn’t abducted, she was willingly there,” he said.
Hooks says the Lauderdale County Department of Human Resources is expected to pick her up in Tampa.
He says he thanks the Tampa PD and the general public, for their help in solving this disappearance.
“I would like to say thank you to all of the citizens from around the region that called in with tips of possible sightings. I would also like to thank the members of the Tampa Police Department, Patrol District 1 for their professionalism and the amount of time dedicated to the safe return of a troubled youth.”
ORIGINAL: Etowah County investigators are seeking the public’s help after a teenager escaped from a local hospital.
17-year-old Jessica Bunch was a patient at Gadsden’s Mountain View Hospital, and has no family or no other connections to Gadsden or Etowah County.
Even though she was a patient at the hospital, she escaped while on a field trip to a park next to city hall in Reece City. The Etowah County Sheriff's Office first told the public last Wednesday about her disappearance.
She was believed to have escaped through the woods behind the park, and believed to have sought a ride on Interstate 59, which runs behind that area.
Sheriff Jonathan Horton says Monday, she called her mentor at the hospital on a phone with a blocked number, and said she’d hitched a ride to Tennessee and couldn’t be found. She said she and another person were headed to Florida.
That part of I-59 leads straight to Chattanooga.
She lived in South Florida for most of her life.
Horton says Bunch does not communicate with her biological mother and has a history of running away from foster homes.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is urged contact the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office at (256) 546-2825.