UPDATE: Nov. 24 at 12:07 a.m.
Authorities told 11Alive that Velma Harrison has been found safe, after someone in Rome, Ga., recognized her vehicle and called police.
Original story below:
NORCROSS, Ga. – Velma Harrison never arrived at her daughter’s house for their family Thanksgiving dinner prep.
With a turkey in tow, Harrison, 79, left her home on Village Oaks Drive in Dunwoody, en route to her daughter’s Norcross, Ga., home Wednesday evening, but never showed up, according to the Dunwoody Police Department.
Now, she has been spotted or traced back to three Georgia gas stations over the last 24 hours.
Her daughter, Tracie Monteagudo, said the last time she talked to her mom was Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 4 p.m. Harrison was supposed to stop at the grocery store for a few last-minute items for their Thanksgiving-Eve "cook prep slumber party," and then travel to Monteagudo's home.
But when Monteagudo got off work at 7 p.m., she expected to find her mom already at her house.
Her daughter called police at 9:30 p.m., to report her missing, and a Mattie's Alert was activated—triggering all Georgia law enforcement to be aware of her disappearance and be on the lookout for her.
The grandmother was seen at a Pilot Gas Station in LaGrange, Ga., on Wednesday at about 10:30 p.m.—nearly 80 miles away—where she filled her gas tank with $20 from her Discover card, with the help of an attendant.
She was wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt, pants and a necklace, and was driving a white, four-door, 2002 Acura 3.2TL sedan, with the Georgia tag: PCX1377.
Wednesday night, Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza made a plea on Facebook Live in an effort to locate Harrison.
“We’re certain now that she has become disoriented,” Espinoza said. “Ms. Harrison also suffers from Dementia.”
At this point, however, police do not know her direction of travel—but they are eager to find her.
“I hope that we’re able to locate Ms. Harrison safe and sound and get her home to her family,” the detective said in the video.
On Thanksgiving Day, her credit card was used at the Chamblee QT gas station for approximately $30.
At approximately 2 p.m., her credit card was used at the Texaco near Piedmont Hospital, off Peachtree Road in Buckhead.
Monteagudo said that her mom lives independently and has never had to worry for her wellbeing or safety before. Her mom, she said, is not only independent, but determined.
She left her cell phone at home and is probably driving around thinking, "I know I can figure this out... I got this," Monteagudo said.
On Thursday, just after midnight, Harrison’s 21-year-old grandson, Ethan Monteagudo received an unexpected call from his mom sharing the urgent news with him. She was nervous, he said, having not heard from his grandma in hours.
“For her to be gone this long and not having called any of us, especially on a day like today, and she’s just such a family-oriented person—it’s definitely a surprise that she hasn’t at least contacted somebody to let us know what’s going on or where she might be,” he said.
The University of Georgia-Athens student drove straight to Norcross, where he and his family made nearly 100 flyers. Together, they went back her last known locations.
“We kind of backtracked from 285 and headed towards Peachtree Industrial heading towards her house,” he said. “I just went anywhere that was open, handed out flyers, asked if anyone had seen her, put up flyers in windows, wherever I can find places to do it,” Ethan said.
His family holds out hope since they are tracking the activity from her credit card and it’s still actively being used.
“Since we’ve been able to track the progress of her card, we at least have the comfort of knowing that she’s still alive. It keeps us in the loop: where she’s been and most of all that she’s still alive and she’s healthy and she’s doing well,” Ethan said.
He last saw her two weeks ago and was looking forward to seeing her over the holiday weekend.
“I love her. I mean, that’s my grandma. Like, definitely want her here on Thanksgiving,” he said. “Thanksgiving is definitely supposed to be a day that you’re supposed to be with your family but throughout the entire process I was actually just thinking just like, in a way you gotta look at the positives of the situation. I’ve had the opportunity to spend the entire day with my mom and dad. Maybe it’s not doing something that I want to do, but the family time is still awesome and I’m definitely thankful for that even though it’s happening in these types of circumstances.”
Anyone with information should contact the Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza, at (678) 382-6919 or call 911.