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October 17. 2013 4:53PM

$20,000 reward offered for info in Abigail's disappearance


 

FBI agents ask travelers along the North-South Road in Conway Wednesday if they saw Abigail Hernandez, who was reported walking along the road Oct. 9. DAN SEUFERT 

One of hundreds of ribbons made by Carroll County Nursing Home resident Susan Strauch for Abigail Hernandez. 

Carroll County Nursing Home resident Susan Strauch, at left, and social worker Lisa Howard show ribbons made by Strauch to help in the search for Abigail Hernandez. 
CONWAY – Authorities announced a $20,000 reward Thursday for any information in the disappearance of Abigail Hernandez, including information that leads to 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, in announcing the reward at a 4 p.m. news conference.

Senior Associate Attorney General Jane Young echoed Ramsey's comments.

"Sometimes, unfortunately, money is a motivator for people, and we will use every possible resource in trying to find Abby," Young said.

Anyone with information about her disappearance is asked to call the Conway Police Department at 356-5717, or the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL FBI or leave information online at tips.fbi.gov.

Hernandez was last seen leaving Kennett High School at about 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 9. Investigators said there were unconfirmed reports that she was seen about an hour later walking along the North-Sound Road, which begins near the high school about two miles near her home.

Investigators said Hernandez' "previous after-school travel pattern" was to walk that road home every day.

The last time she was heard from, authorities said, was when a friend, identified by family members as Hernandez' boyfriend, Jimmy Campbell, received a text from her at about 2:53 p.m.

Investigators Wednesday asked area residents and businesses to help find the girl's cell phone, a white iPhone in a pink case, which last made contact with a cell tower on Cranmore Mountain at 3:07 p.m.

That contact, Ramsey said, was not a phone call, but was likely the iPhone updating or sending some other data. The iPhone is known to frequently exchange data with a tower, he said, without any actions by its owner.

There were no further data exchanges between the phone and the tower after 3:07 p.m., Ramsey said Thursday.

"Was the phone powered off, or did the battery die, we're not sure," Ramsey said.

At the news conference Thursday, Hernandez' mother, Zenya Hernandez, issued another plea to her daughter, the second she has publicly issued.

"We're not giving up hope. Abby, we miss you," she said. "Stay strong, do not give up."

Previous story follows:

CONWAY — Law enforcement officials gave a timeline of the afternoon Abigail Hernandez disappeared, and made a plea to the public and area businesses to help find the 15-year-old's cell phone, a white iPhone 5 in a deep pink and gray case.

At a news media briefing at the town's police station, one week after Hernandez was reported missing, Senior Associate Attorney General Jane Young said the last time anyone has reported seeing Hernandez was walking on the North-South Road, which begins near Kennett High School and ends near her home.

"We have no information that she ever made it home," said Kieran L. Ramsey, an FBI special agent from Boston.

Authorities said she was at school that day, and was seen leaving school wearing black leggings, black boots, and a dark-colored striped sweater, walking through a school field hockey field and an area known as Eagles Way to a power line trail.

FBI officials, who put up a roadblock that stopped every car driving along the North-South Road on Wednesday afternoon to ask if drivers had seen Hernandez, said they have unconfirmed reports of her walking on the highway between the rotary at the south end and Settlers Green marketplace between 2:40 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

"We have reports that she was there, but we can't confirm it was her," Young said after the conference.

She had previously walked that route from school to her home at 86 Village Way, authorities said.

"Abigail's previous after-school travel pattern, confirmed via interviews and security camera videos, was along that route between Kennett High School and her residence," authorities said in a news release.

Authorities said she was texting on her phone between 2:23 p.m. and 2:53 p.m., and that she was texting with a friend, who they said has been cooperating in the investigation.

According to James D. Campbell of Conway, his son, Jimmy Campbell, 14, is Hernandez's boyfriend. Campbell's father said his son last received a text from Hernandez — a heart — in that time frame.

Authorities said the final contact between her cell phone and cell phone network towers on the west side of Cranmore Mountain was at 3:07 p.m.

Young would not say what kind of contact was made with the cell tower, and said information about the last cell phone contact came from information gathered by police.

Young asked for the public's help in finding the teen's iPhone 5, which is described as a white 16-gigabyte phone in a deep pink and gray Otterbox case.

"We are particularly asking businesses in the area to look in their lost and found and around their stores for this phone," Young said.

Authorities have now received 544 leads, Ramsey said.

"But a number of those leads continue to wash out," Ramsey said.

The roadblocks along North-South Highway Wednesday were put in place at the exact time and in the same area that Hernandez was last seen.

For more than two hours, traffic was backed up as FBI agents asked drivers questions relating to the teen's disappearance.

"We tried to replicate the time we think she was last seen on the North-South Road," Young said.

Young said the phone could have important clues. "We believe the phone could be a critical piece of evidence in finding her last known location, and then finding her," she said.

dseufert@newstote.com


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