A missing Florida teen who vanished five years ago at age 14 but recently mailed letters home to her family has turned up and reported herself to be “safe,” PEOPLE confirms.
Few other details were released by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, which reached out to the missing Emily Paul with a video on Facebook after her family reported receiving the letters last month.
It was unclear where she is or whether she’s spoken to her family, but after walking into an unidentified police department where authorities verified her identity, Paul, who now would be 19, “stated that she was safe, she had a support system and she was happy where she was,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Her mother, Pam Massimiani, who first shared news about the letters July 26 on her Facebook page, responded Wednesday to another friend’s post about Emily’s discovery, saying, “It is the Grace of God that has sustained me through this. I give Him all the Glory Honor and Praise!”
Neither Massimiani nor the sheriff’s office has shared the content of Emily’s letters home.
Emily’s last known prior contact with her family came in April 2013, when authorities and her family said she left a note stating her intentions to run away and then vanished with a packed suitcase from the family’s home in Southport.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Police logged her disappearance as a missing person’s case, and noted that she appeared to follow tips found on websites that describe steps to take for a successful runaway, the Panama City News Herald reported. Emily fled with items such as her Xbox that might have linked her to online connections, and she never resurfaced on social media.
Three pings of Emily’s cell phone in the week that followed were the last evidence of her movements.
“Earlier this month, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office was notified that family members of Emily Paul had received letters in the mail from her,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Tuesday. “In response to this, Captain Jason Daffin posted a video on Facebook, requesting Emily reach out to law enforcement, so that her safety could be ensured and we could ultimately close out her missing person case.”
A woman who claimed to be Emily contacted the sheriff’s office by phone on Monday, and authorities then asked that she report to a sheriff’s office or police station in person to verify her identity “and (so) we could ensure the call was not being made under duress,” according to law enforcement.
“Approximately 30 minutes later, a second phone call came in to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office from a police department, stating they had a female in their lobby, saying she was Emily Paul,” the sheriff’s office reports.
“At that time, we requested photographs be taken and asked that they collect other proof of her identity. An investigator with that agency spoke with Emily, one on one, for a period of time. Emily stated that she was safe, she had a support system and she was happy where she was. She appeared to be in good health and she had arrived at the police station by herself and left by herself.”
The agency has now closed its investigation.