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Missing teen found with altered appearance placed in protective custody

The Guardian The Guardian 9/08/2016 Joanna Walters

In this poster provided by the Grand Teton National Park Service shows a photo of  16-year-old Fauna Jackson from Ohio. © Grand Teton National Park Service via AP In this poster provided by the Grand Teton National Park Service shows a photo of 16-year-old Fauna Jackson from Ohio. A teenage girl who went missing while on a volunteer mission in Grand Teton national park was placed in protective custody on Sunday, after she was found uninjured but with a changed appearance and after a flight from her rescuers.

Fauna Jackson, 16, had to be chased and restrained by rangers and a sheriff’s deputy who were part of a large search party on Saturday that found the teenager.

The girl, from Cincinnati, Ohio, had spent 48 hours apparently outdoors and alone in what a park official described as “bear country”. While she was missing, the temperature dropped towards freezing one night, and the park was racked by thunder and lightning storms.

Jackson was reported to be “in the care of” the Teton County sheriff’s office, near the park in Wyoming, while her parents travelled from Ohio to be reunited with her.

The National Park Service is now directing an investigation into what happened, spokeswoman Denise Germann told the Guardian on Sunday afternoon.

“When we approached her, she fled. Three rangers and a sheriff’s deputy followed her and continued to talk to her and they had to restrain her at that point. They ran after her,” Germann said.

She was not able to describe what Jackson was wearing when she was found, but confirmed reports that, from the point of her disappearance to when she was found, she had cut her hair, dyed it a different color and was wearing different clothes.

Germann said the teenager had a pack with her, but it was not yet known how she had spent the two nights while she was missing.

She was found in an area of open sagebrush, close to hills, in Grand Teton national park , but not on the slopes of the well-known mountains in the park – where search and rescue services are more often called to help hikers or climbers in distress.

Jackson was in the area on a field service volunteer trip with a group called Groundwork USA, a national not-for-profit organization that focuses on environmental and civic projects, particularly involving local communities and marginalized groups.

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On Thursday morning, she took a bathroom break while her assigned team was working on trail-building in the national park. She didn’t return.

A search began for the girl, growing into a group of 60 people then, later on Friday, more than 100 combing the area for any sign of her.

The FBI became involved and worries mounted when a single hiking boot was found, a discovery the National Park Service reported on Friday evening. The puzzle of Jackson’s disappearance only deepened when officials also reported that she was not believed to have been wearing hiking boots when she left the volunteer group on Thursday.

Jackson is a student at Clark Montessori high school in Cincinnati. Social media posts began popping up from concerned friends and from the Cincinnati Children’s Choir, of which she is a member.

The Wyoming civil air patrol conducted flights over the park in search of her and a combination of their surveillance and some reported sightings led to Jackson being found.

She was found about three or four miles from where she had disappeared at a spot called the Snake River Overlook. At the hospital she was found to be unharmed.

Cindy Harger, a spokeswoman for the Teton County sheriff’s office said the girl’s family members were “on their way” and it was estimated they would be reunited with Jackson on Monday. Until then, she was described as being kept in protective custody, but was not under arrest.

There were no details available about the type of accommodation she was staying in while being dealt with by the sheriff’s office.

Denise Germann said there was always “great relief” when the subject of a search in the park is found unharmed.

Sometimes the subjects of searches are asked to reimburse the government bodies for the cost. Germann said it can be “an option” but no decisions have yet been made about this case.

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