AL family ‘happy, relieved’ after missing teen located in El Pas - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

AL family ‘happy, relieved’ after missing teen located in El Paso

Alissia Freeman and her mother after their reunion. (Courtesy: Vickie Metcalf) Alissia Freeman and her mother after their reunion. (Courtesy: Vickie Metcalf)
Agents took this picture at the reunion. (Source: FBI/Crenshaw County Sheriff's Office) Agents took this picture at the reunion. (Source: FBI/Crenshaw County Sheriff's Office)
Alissia vanished from her home in December 2015. (Source: WSFA 12 News) Alissia vanished from her home in December 2015. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Family members have kept a candle glowing in the front window for her. (Source: WSFA 12 News) Family members have kept a candle glowing in the front window for her. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: Help Find Alissia Freeman Facebook page) (Source: Help Find Alissia Freeman Facebook page)
HIGHLAND HOME, AL (WSFA) -

A Crenshaw County teenager missing for more than a year has been found more than a thousand miles away.

Alissia Freeman came face to face with her family for the first time in more than a year on Wednesday morning.

The reunion happened in El Paso, Texas which is located near the United States-Mexico border.

Back in Alabama, questions continue to swirl around her disappearance as many wonder where Alissia has been since she vanished and if she left home willingly.

For right now, her loved ones say that’s not what they’re focused on.  

Calvin Thornton and his wife Theresa have kept a light burning in their front window to help Alissia, their niece, find her way home.

They now live in the house where the teen and her family used to live in Highland Home's Magnolia Shores community. It's where Alissia went missing from in December of 2015.

The candle seems to be glowing a little brighter now that she’s been located.

Thornton says he got the call Monday from his sister, Alissia’s mother, that she had reached out to her after 16 months.

“It was a pretty good day that day,” he said. “It was joyous news. I was shocked, happy, relieved.”

Alissia's mom, Vickie Metcalf, shared a picture of the family’s emotional reunion Wednesday. 

FBI agents were also there and snapped pictures of Alissia smiling and looking happy and healthy at a restaurant.

It was the moment that Metcalf, Alissia’s stepfather, her grandparents, and siblings have been hoping and praying for- the chance to wrap their arms around her and finally have the comfort in knowing that she is alive and well.

“I’m with Alissia now just trying to spend as much time with her as I can,” Metcalf said.

A DNA test is being conducted to confirm her identity.

Alissia’s disappearance has made national news, and her photo has been shared around the world.

“We're really grateful for all the well wishes and prayers. We've even had people come here to the house to pray with us. It's been a pretty big deal,” Thornton said.

On Dec. 13, 2015, Alissia told her parents she was cleaning her room at her family’s home on Dailey Road in Highland Home's Magnolia Shores community. She went to take the garbage from her room to the trash can outside, but never came back.

When her family realized she was gone, they started looking for her in their neighborhood. They soon learned that a neighbor saw Alissia walking down the road they live on by herself. She didn't appear to have anything with her at the time. She was 17 when she vanished. She is now 19.

It was believed the homeschooled teen left with someone she met online. The FBI and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency have been working with the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office during the course of the investigation.

Crenshaw County Sheriff Mickey Powell said it’s possible Alissia was lured away by someone she connected with on social media.

Local, state and federal authorities have spent countless hours on the case and a $13,500 reward for information was offered for information.

There were a number of reported sightings of Alissia, both locally and in cities across the Southeast, from Atlanta to New Orleans. Sheriff Powell says surveillance video of what looked like the teen on Bourbon Street was reviewed. None of the sightings were ever confirmed.

“The not knowing was probably the worst part and not having her with us. When we had any kind of occasion, we would just try to get through the day and make the best of it. Then there's all the little things that you miss about having her there with you during those times. It was pretty hard on us,” her uncle said. “It's been a roller coaster of ups and downs.”

Vickie Metcalf constantly updated the “Help Find Alissia Freeman” Facebook page, sharing her pictures in the hopes someone would recognize her and come forward with important information.

On the page, Metcalf said there were had been multiple calls to law enforcement that Alissia could have possibly become a victim of human trafficking.

It’s not clear why she suddenly reached out to her mother a few days ago, prompting the family’s trip to Texas and the heartfelt reunion.

A post to the “Help Find Alissia Freeman” Facebook page asked that the family be given space during this “difficult, but exciting time” as they figure out what’s next for them.

Relatives did not know if Alissia would come back to Alabama.

Her mother, stepfather and siblings now live in Missouri, a move they were planning to make long before Alissia went missing, her uncle explained.

“They almost didn't move because of it,” Thornton said. “We moved into the house in case she did come back so there's still family here and she's got something to come to.”

The Thorntons said it was important for them to keep the candle in the window of what used to be Alissia’s bedroom.

“Vickie asked us to make sure that it stayed lit so that Alissia could find her way home so we kept it burning to make sure that she could see it regardless of where she was, walking up the road or coming up the driveway,” her stated. “I think we should light candles for everyone who is missing so they can find their way home.”

Relatives said their ordeal has made them realize how many other families are dealing with missing person cases involving a loved one and how many people fall prey to human traffickers by interacting with other victims, their families and various organizations.

“It's shed a light that we didn't even think about before this,” Alissia’s uncle said.

Many viewers and those who have followed the case closely have asked if Alissia left with someone and where’s she been all of this time.

None of those details have been released yet. No information has been made available pertaining to anything that’s transpired over the time she’s been gone. Law enforcement remains tight-lipped on the investigation. Sheriff Powell declined an interview Tuesday and Wednesday, but says a press conference will be held in the near future once reports have been received.

"We've had a lot of people asking questions. We don't have all the answers. I don't have any answers other than she's OK and she's been found. We've heard a lot of negative things and a lot of positive things. I don't really care about the negative. All I care about is the fact that my niece has been found. She's safe and she's alive. That's the only thing we're going to focus on. We'll get the answers in time,” Calvin Thornton said.

On Wednesday, Metcalf addressed social media backlash her daughter has been receiving after news broke that she’d been found.  

“Please stop messaging my daughter with ugly messages and making ugly comments about her. She went through some things when she was younger (no I will not explain..it is not my place to) that had an effect on her,” her mother wrote. “She's had a hard time with it and our communication wasn't the best and she didn’t think I'd understand (my fault not hers). We are working on that now. She is just trying to heal now. No one has any right to say anything negative to her or about her. If you must be negative direct it to me and not her.”

“We appreciate that you all have worried, prayed, and shared her poster and we are glad to rejoice with you all in the fact that she is safe and that IS ALL THAT MATTERS,” she added.

Community members are also happy to hear that Alissia is alright.

“I am just thrilled to death that she was found and found alive because we were all real worried that we'd never see her again, that she would not be alive,” said Charles Hare, a neighbor. “The whole neighborhood's prayers have been with her and we were praying for her to be found OK so prayers can be answered.”

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