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Circumstances behind Conway teen's disappearance & return home still a mystery

by Daymond Steer

Conway Daily Sun

CONWAY — As of Tuesday afternoon, law enforcement was still trying to piece together how formerly missing teen Abby Hernandez came home on Sunday night after being missing for nine months.
Abby Hernandez, 15, disappeared after leaving Kennett High School on Oct. 9 at the end of the school day. She wrote one letter home at the end of October but had not been heard from since until Sunday when she was reunited with her family.
Many anticipated a press conference would be held Tuesday evening but instead the attorney general's office released a statement saying the investigation is ongoing.
Law enforcement also asked if anyone saw a woman wearing a multicolored sweatshirt and black pants on the North-South Road between 10 and 10:30 Sunday night. The outfit appears to be similar to the one she wore on the day she disappeared, based on school security footage of her walking down the school's hall on Oct. 9.
"Investigators continue to conduct interviews and review videotape surveillance from the businesses in the area surrounding the Hernandez home in order to gain answers to the many questions surrounding the disappearance and return of Abigail," the statement reads.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Conway Police at 356-5715 or State Police at 271-3636.
The statement says Abby had no known means to sustain herself for the nine months she was missing.
"Should the investigation reveal evidence that a person or persons were involved with Abigail's disappearance and/or detainment or concealment, then the appropriate criminal charge(s) will be brought," reads the statement. "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 mystery enthralled the community and various Facebook pages, including The Conway Daily Sun's page and Bring Abby Home, have been lighting up with comments about the case.
"No offense but could this get any more strange?" wrote Claes Swede Hermanson on the Facebook page. "Does she have amnesia? Is she not cooperating? Did she forget if she wore those clothes? Either she was wearing those clothes or she was not."
On Tuesday afternoon, the Sun asked Kieran Ramsey, of the FBI, how common it is for a child to be found after being missing for so long. Ramsey said they were still sorting out the details of her disappearance. He said trying to put Abby's case in perspective by comparing it to other cases would be "very difficult." However, he said it's not hard to characterize Abby's return.
"To see her come home is a win in any column," said Ramsey.
The FBI's Kidnapping and Missing person's web page had about 70 names and faces on it as of Tuesday afternoon. Abby's name was still on the list but the word "located" was under her photo. She was the only person listed as located.
Ramsey hasn't spoken to Abby directly but says the core law enforcement agencies in the case, Conway police, state police and the FBI, were working with Abby on Tuesday afternoon and that he was waiting for a briefing from them.
"We know everyone has a million questions," said Ramsey adding law enforcement wants to make sure their information is as "solid" as possible before they release anything. Ramsey says his understanding is Abby is well. He said concerns for her well-being are another reason why they are being careful about releasing information.
Earlier in the day, Sr. Associate Attorney General Jane Young said she is "very, very, happy" that Abby is home safely.
"A lot of times it doesn't end that way," said Young who was on her way to Conway.
She says the investigation into what happened with Abby is "ongoing and dynamic." She told the Sun's reporter to be patient.
Conway police chief Ed Wagner said he was "extremely happy" that Abby has come home.
Abby's father posted a message on his Facebook page.
"We have prayed for this day — welcome home Abby," said Ruben on his Facebook page.
Bring Abby Home volunteer Amanda Smith said Abby and Abby's mother, Zenya, won't be doing interviews right away.
Paul Kirsch, who led the Bring Abby Home effort, said he was at work when he got the news. Kirsch had organized a number of vigils, started a Bring Abby Home website and helped distribute a number of Bring Abby Home fliers and magnetic posters.
"I was filled with a combination of total shock and happiness, said Kirsch about how he felt.
Kirsch reacted to the news by contacting Smith because he figured Zenya would be swamped.
"After that, the next thing I did, with complete joy, was walk out to my truck and take the Abby magnet off the back of it," said Kirsch. "My wife and I got to see the family last night and it was very special. We are so happy for them and for the community support."
On Tuesday afternoon, Kennett High School Principal Neal Moylan said he had no information about Abby but did say she would be welcome to return to school in September. Moylan has received countless media inquiries after news broke that Hernandez was home.
"We're glad she's home and safe with her family," Moylan said.
Abby's ex boyfriend told WMUR that this ordeal has been 'horrible' because he wondered what happened to her. He's glad she's home, WMUR reported.
For many months, Abby was listed on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's web page as a child who is missing from New Hampshire. She had been removed from the list by Tuesday afternoon. When reached Tuesday, Bob Lowery, a national center vice president in the missing children division, said his organization is "delighted" with the news.
He said their success rate drops off dramatically the longer a child has been missing but they have helped find people who have been missing for much longer. Lowery cited two examples. One person was found after 18 years and another was found after 42 years. The center won't close a case until the person is physically found.
"We don't give up," said Lowery.
The National Center's success rate has improved over the years, according to its website.
"The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 196,488 missing children since it was founded in 1984," states missingkids.com. "Our recovery rate for missing children has grown from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Bring Abby Home's Facebook page had well over 10,000 likes.
Most people on Facebook were thrilled with Abby's return. However, some commenters were negative. Desiree Reed, who posted on Bring Abby Home's Facebook page, addressed some of the negative comments.
"Sorry but even IF she did run away I don't feel like my time was wasted getting the word out about her disappearance and I'm sure a lot of people who wanted her home safe feel the same," said Reed. "She is just a CHILD. Even if she ran away by her own free will this could have ended badly. Stop being so selfish just be happy she is home."
Lee Albert Pelletier wrote, "The family certainly doesn't owe me any explanation. Just glad to hear they've been reunited with her."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 01:31

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Female business owners tell congresswoman of their hopes & describe challenges

LACONIA — Women business owners described the trials and tribulations they have faced in starting and managing their own businesses at a Women Entrepreneurs Roundtable Monday morning at the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
All agreed that stress was a major part of owning a small business and that it is experienced differently by women than men as, despite changes over the last several generations, most of the child-rearing and caring for elderly parents still falls on the shoulders of women.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who along with the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center and the Chamberarranged the event, said that stress is the one constant theme she hears from other women business owners across the state and that seeking some relief and some improvement is one of the biggest needs of women business owners.
She said that one small step is her RENEW Business Act, which would help start-ups by increasing the tax deduction available to new businesses from $5,000 to $10,000.
Access to financing for start-up and expanding existing businesses and the cost of health insurance are the major issues facing small businesses all across the state according to Sally Holder, business adviser with the N.H. Small Business Development Center, who said that many SBDC resources are available to entrepreneurs, such as the Women-Owned Small Business Program.
Holder said that for many older women who are starting their own businesses one major issue is overcoming gender stereotypes and adapting to the role of goal setting and decision making in a manner which ''gets us out of the weeds'' and enables them to really take control of their business operations.
Cindi Ingalls, who along with her husband, Mike, who has his own career as engineer, started the Lakes Region Pet Resort on Rte. 3 in Center Harbor three years ago, says that one of her major problems is finding good employees.
''There are things we weren't aware of when we started our business, which 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It takes special people to be able to do that and and they're hard to find. There's a lot of physical work and some of the overnight shifts are hard to fill. One worker never showed up for their shift and that adds extra stress to doing our business.''
She said that younger workers of the what is known as the Millennial Generation put quality of life issues above all others and are sometimes difficult to work with as they don't like to stick with a schedule, whereas those of other generations are more concerned with keeping their jobs and having a regular paycheck. She recalls that when she first presented her plan for an upscale Pet Resort to a banker she was ''laughed right out of the office'' but eventually was able to obtain financing and start her business, which has proved very successful and now is 65 percent repeat business.
Jane Wood, who is the office manger at Patrick Wood Law LLC, her husband's firm, says that the biggest challenge is the poor economic climate. ''It's been so bad for so long. We weren't able to give raises for the last five years and had to let one person go. We have good people who work for us and fortunately she (the laid-off employee) was able to land a job where she could get health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act for half of what we had to pay.''
She observed that many women make the mistake of calling themselves and other women in business as ''girls'' and that often translates to others as saying ''you're a child and not be taken seriously.''
Jeanne Howe Compton, owner of New England Porch Rockers, says that she wants to take her chair caning business to the next level by obtaining financing which will enable her to get into manufacturing. She cited one success story involving four locally-owned women businesses who have joined together to form the Vintage Row Shops which are located on the same street, which is something of an elbow of Pleasant Street attached to the Downtown Laconia area.
''I'd like to be part of something which brings Laconia back to the place it was when I was kid,'' said Compton.
Lani Voivod, who partners with her husband, Alan, at Epiphanies Inc. says that the social media firm has been able to work with some high profile clients and she and her husband are co-founders of the "A-Ha!" N.H. Social Media Business Summits.
She said that women bring unique strengths to the business world through their sense of community, social responsibility and collaboration and have been able to change the conversation about what a successful business really should look like.
''We're changing the language of business and making it more intuitive and innovative,'' says Voivod.


Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (center) talks with women business owners Monday morning at a Women Entrepreneurs Roundtable at the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. With Shea-Porter, center, are, left to right, Cindi Ingalls of the Lakes Region Pet Resort, Jeanne Howe Compton of New England Porch Rockers, Lani Voivod of Epiphanies, Inc., Karmen Gifford, executive director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Jane Wood, office manager of Patrick Wood Law Office and Sally Holder, business adviser with the NH Small Business Development Center. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 12:56

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2 separate hiking groups rescued from Mt. Major over weekend - 576

ALTON — Two separate hiking groups were rescued from Mt. Major in Alton over the weekend, according to the N.H. Fish & Game Department.

On Saturday at 7:55 p.m., 911 dispatchers received a call that two people were off trail and lost in the vicinity of Mt. Major in Alton. Movva Rao Nageswara, age 48, of Switzerland, and his daughter Raasida Gaugier, age 19, of Medford, Massachusetts, began hiking the mountain at approximately 4:15 p.m. They summited Mt. Major and then continued along the blue trail until they found what they thought was a separate green-blazed trail that led down the mountain. However the green blaze was actually an old boundary line, and they eventually lost the green blaze and became lost, at which time they called 911 for assistance. Alton Fire Rescue responded, along with Alton Police.

Meanwhile, at approximately 8:30 p.m., 911 dispatch received a second call for lost hikers in the same area. A church group from Massachusetts, consisting of 35 hikers, including 16 children, some as young as 3-years-old, had left the trailhead to Mt. Major at approximately 4:00 p.m. to summit the mountain. The group reached the top and took some time to enjoy the views and pick blueberries. When they departed the summit, they took the wrong trail, one leading away from the trailhead. By the time they realized their mistake, they were several miles from the trailhead and it was getting dark. The group had no lights or provisions, so they decided to wait at their current location and called 911 for assistance. Alton Fire Rescue and Alton Police were already on scene and initiated a second search for the lost group.

The search for the two groups was made difficult due to the lack of cell phone coverage and intermittent radio reception. Eventually, Fish and Game was called in to assist, with the first officers arriving at approximately 10:30 p.m. The priority was given to the group of 35 members, and they were eventually located at 1:37 a.m. the next morning by a member of the Alton Fire Department. The group was in high spirits, gathered around a fire singing songs. Lights and provisions were gathered and a rescue party consisting of Alton Fire-Rescue and Fish and Game personnel reached the group and escorted them to Alton Mountain Road, arriving at 3:13 a.m. The group was transported back to the trailhead, where they were returned to their vehicles.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART) Helicopter was asked to assist in the search for the pair of lost hikers first reported. At 3:45 a.m., the DHART helicopter arrived on scene to begin a search using both FLIR and search lights. A Fish and Game search party consisting of Conservation Officer Ron Arsenault and Conservation Officer Joe Canfield made voice contact with two lost hikers at 4:29 a.m. and DHART was directed to focus their search in the officers' location, which resulted in the subjects being located at 4:36 a.m. The two hikers were assessed and guided to Alton Mountain Road, where transportation was awaiting to drive them back to the trailhead, where their car was parked.

Fish and Game officials say both incidents could have been prevented by good planning and preparation. They advise hikers to remember to pack appropriate lighting, clothing, equipment, food and water. It is also always good practice to hike with a partner in case of a medical emergency. Hikes often take longer than anticipated, and weather is unpredictable. Having appropriate gear aides in safety. Please visit http://www.hikesafe.com for a list of recommended equipment.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 12:43

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Abby's home safe! Conway teen was missing for 286 days

(This article was written by staff members of The Conway Daily Sun.)

CONWAY — She's home, safe and sound.

North Conway teen Abigail Hernandez was reunited safely with her family Sunday evening, according to a statement issued Monday afternoon by authorities. Hernandez, of North Conway, disappeared last Oct. 9 after leaving Kennett High School. She vanished just days before her 15th birthday.

Attorney General Joseph A. Foster, Conway Police Chief Edward Wagner, New Hampshire State Police Colonel Robert Quinn and FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent in Charge William Scott O'Donnell issued the following statement Monday:

"(We) are pleased to announce that Abigail Hernandez was safely reunited with her family yesterday evening. The facts and circumstances surrounding Abigail's disappearance continue to be actively investigated by members of the agencies noted above. Further details will be provided once it has been determined that releasing additional information will not compromise the integrity of the ongoing criminal investigation. Law enforcement thanks the public for its cooperation and assistance in the investigation over the past months and continues to welcome the public's assistance as the investigation continues."

The statement added that "the Hernandez family has requested privacy as they assist with the law enforcement efforts and as they spend time supporting and caring for Abigail."

The press release quoted Zenya Hernandez, Abigail's mother, as saying, "Today we are the happiest people on Earth."

Very few details were available Monday. Jane Young, of the Attorney General's office, said more information may be available for release on Tuesday.

Young did say that Abigail Hernandez is in "good condition," and she added, "She's been reunited with her family. They are ecstatic that she is home. We have investigators out working to find answers to all the questions, and our focus will continue to be that.

Kieran Ramsey of the FBI called The Conway Daily Monday afternoon from Cape Cod, where he is on vacation.

"The details about how she returned home, and other stuff behind the scenes we are not commenting on outside of the four corners of the press statement, other than to thank the media for keeping the story out there and everyone for their efforts," said Ramsey. "All else will come out in the wash, and the investigation continues. We are all collectively happy that she is safe and sound and that she is home."

The Conway Police Department referred all calls to the Attorney General's office.

The website, Bringabbyhome.com, posted the following statement Monday afternoon:

"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 cant thank you enough! We will keep you all updated. THANK YOU!

The post contained a photograph, showing the words "thank you" in several different languages.

Bringabbyhome volunteer Amanda Smith posted this message on her Facebook account:

"I want to personally say a HUGE thank you to everyone," wrote Smith. "You will never understand how much so many of you have helped me push on in the last nine months. My heart is beyond overjoyed for my friend. She has her baby girl back! Thank you to everyone who shared fliers, posted fliers, offered emotional support. You all are amazing. And thank you Jesus, she's home!"

Paul Kirsch, who ran the website Bringabbyhome.com and organized much of the volunteer effort to find her, wrote this message on his Facebook account.

"Thanks everyone who has kept Abby in their thoughts, prayers and shared posts, posters, bought magnets, and everything else to keep hope alive," said Kirsch. "It reminds me of all that is good in my community and the world."

Kirsch thanked Smith for her efforts.

"Most importantly, a huge, huge thanks to Amanda Smith, who has been more than anyone could ever ask for in a friend in terms of what she has done for the Hernandez family and keeping up all of the online activity, posts, sharing and amazing energy," said Kirsch. "She's been diligently doing a daily post every single day since October, never, ever giving up hope."

Numerous people wrote in on the Conway Daily Sun's Facebook account to share their relief.

"Even living in Ohio (raised in and graduated from the valley) I had been glued to this story," wrote Nicholas Tozier. "Never thought there would be a happy ending.. Amazing!"

Since her disappearance, the teen sent one letter home at the end of October and had not been heard from again. Law enforcement, ranging from the local police to the FBI, were involved in the search. National media outlets ran the story repeatedly.

The FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Abby's return. Her mother, Zenya Hernandez, offered a $10,000 reward. Abby's father and Zenya's former husband, Ruben Hernandez, added to the pot, by offering an additional $30,000 bringing the total reward to $60,000 for any information that led to Abby's safe return.

Signs were posted throughout the region. The Conway Daily Sun posted a notice on Page 2 of every issue, listing the days since she had been missing. Saturday's total stood at 285 — meaning she was reunited with her family on the 286th day Sunday.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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