A teen who went missing in 2019 turned up in a small Montana town near the Canadian border after walking into a local police department and identifying herself.
Alicia Navarro, who has autism, was just 14 when she disappeared in September 2019, leaving behind a note saying she would be back. Her birthday was just a couple days after her disappearance. At the time, her mother, Jessica Nunez, suspected her daughter had been lured away by a predator online.
But Glendale police spokesperson Jose Santiago said in a press conference Wednesday that the now 18-year-old Navarro was “healthy and happy” since the discovery—despite being a little “overwhelmed.”
It is unclear exactly when Navarro walked into the police station—with police simply stating that it was “earlier this week” and that she was alone. She showed up, identified herself and asked for help to clear her name from a missing juvenile list, Santiago said, adding she is not in any trouble. Police said they will not release any further information concerning the “very small town” about 40 miles from the Canadian border.
As soon as Navarro identified herself, police say they conducted interviews with Navarro and her family, and “are confident that the person that we are talking with and dealing with is indeed Alicia Navarro.”
She did not need medical attention at the time of her discovery, or since she has been speaking with police.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions with this particular announcement that we are having. We are happy and at the same time we are hopeful that we will be able to supply this family with a little more closure,” Santiago said.
There’s still a lot of questions, he adds, while revealing Navarro has been through a “traumatic situation” and has asked for privacy. “She is looking to be able to move on in her life, she’s looking to build a life for herself,” Santiago said.
“She’s overwhelmed,” he added, saying Navarro “is very knowledgeable” about the attention surrounding the case but that her priority was to “talk to her mom and make sure her mother knew that she was OK.”
Glendale Police Lieutenant Scott Waite said police were unsure why she reappeared now, but noted “she felt like now was the time, whether it’s emotionally, mentally, that she wants to take the next steps in her life…to do the things that a normal, healthy adult would do. I can’t say there is any single triggering moment, I think there’s probably been a long progression for her in the journey she’s taken.”
It remains unclear where she was for the past several years.
Police released a photo of Navarro on the day she arrived at the police station. “I will tell you, to be direct, she doesn’t look much different than she did when she disappeared…her appearance is that of a very young looking lady,” Santiago said.
Police said every indication is that Navarro wilfully left her home in 2019, but the ”dynamics surrounding that decision” are being investigated.
It is unclear if Navarro had been with anyone during the years that she was missing. She has been cooperative, police said, adding it started as a runaway situation but became “more dynamic” as investigators worked on the case.
It is also unclear how Navarro got to Montana. No charges have been filed in the case but police added it was a possibility. Navarro went to the police station at her own free will and is not facing any charges. “She is coming and going at her own free will and has been extremely cooperative,” Santiago said.
In a short video sent by the Glendale Police Department to The Daily Beast, Navarro can be seen being questioned by investigators via video call.
An investigator asks: “Did anybody hurt you in any way?”
“No, no one hurt me,” she answers.
Navarro appears to be in good spirits, police claimed, adding that she “really wants to move on with her life,” and is “very apologetic to her mother and understands she caused a lot of pain.”
The teen remains hopeful that they can rebuild their relationship.
“For more than four years detectives here have followed up on THOUSANDS of leads,” Santiago said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“This case is far from being closed. We are continuing to investigate her whereabouts for the last four years and will do so alongside our Federal partners. Alicia is asking for her privacy at this time. We are thankful we can bring some type of closure to her family. We are also thankful she appears to be in good health and happy.”
Police said Alicia has been reunited with her family as police “begin to put together the puzzle which is her disappearance and returning.” Waite asked the public for patience from Navarro and her family.
“We can only imagine what she’s going through, mentally and emotionally, as well as her family. As much as we’d like to say this is the end, this is probably only the beginning of where this investigation will go.”
In a video message an hour after finding out, her mother, Jessica, told the public it was a “miracle” and sent a message to other families with missing loved ones. “I want you to use this case as an example, that miracles do exist,” she says, adding that she was unaware of the details surrounding her daughter’s discovery. “This is recent news for me, I don’t have details but the important thing is she is alive…never lose hope and always fight,” she said.
Police would not go into details of the reunion between the pair, except that it was “emotionally overwhelming” for both of them.
Santiago said Navarro was “very apologetic to what she has put her mother through,” that it was “not intentional” on her behalf and that understands she caused a lot of pain to her mother.