DOUGLASVILLE, GA – A 15-hour search for missing 13-year-old with special needs who had disappeared in Douglas County has come relieving resolution.
Thirteen-year-old Trinity Lopez had not been seen since 7 a.m. when her parents initially reported her missing from her home. Authorities said she left home with her lime green bicycle and helmet without her parents knowing, triggering an urgent search.
Deputy Jesse Hambrick with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said Trinity, who family said has special needs, left home between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.
"She has diminished mental capacity, and is affected by lights, loud noises and commotion, which could cause her to shut down," Hambrick said. "Every passing minute creates more worry."
Hambrick said that when Trinity's parents went to bed, she had already shut her bedroom door -- which they said she always does, to shut out noise at night. When they woke up at 7 a.m., Trinity's door was open. Her bicycle and bicycle helmet were gone.
Trinity's parents said the behavior is completely out of character for her.
More than 100 people had been thoroughly searching a one-square-mile area in the Dorsett Shoals area around the Lopez home, and had expanded their search to a three-square-mile area as they looked for any sign of Trinity.
Volunteers had gone door-to-door and authorities are using helicopters and other resources. Even ordinary citizens are stepping up to help, reporting to the command center at Dorsett Shoals Baptist Church to help in the search.
Sophie Erie and her son Joell showed up to help knock on doors and pass out flyers.
"I have a 12-year-old myself, and Lord forbid something ever happened to him. I would want to have people come out and help," Erie said.
"I just hope she gets found and she's okay," Joell agreed.
Those volunteers' prayers were answered --- around 10:30 Wednesday night, a sigh of relief.
Authorities said Trinity was found in woods about a mile from her house and was slightly dehydrated, but otherwise OK. Douglas County Sheriff Tim Pounds spoke with 11Alive's Duffie Dixon shortly after Trinity was found and said his entire office was relieved that the 13-year-old was safe.
"The parents are just overwhelmed that they have their daughter," he said. "We're all so happy that we don't know what to do. It was a great success."
Pounds said Trinty couldn't tell investigators why she left, but that she just woke up in the middle of the night and walked outside. They found her bike about 20 to 30 feet inside the woods, Trinty just feet beyond in a ditch. Sheriff Pounds wanted to thank all who helped in the search.
"We want to thank every agency who assisted me in making this such a great success because I was determined not to go home until we found that little girl," he said. "It turned out just the way they hoped it would."