Victoria Yeutter, a 15-year-old who ran away Monday sparking a social media campaign for her search, was located Wednesday, thousands of miles from her Potomac home.
Family, friends and strangers were on the search for the missing girl, after she ran away in the early morning hours of Monday, April 9. Less than 24 hours after Victoria was reported missing, hundreds of Facebook posts, tweets, Tumblr posts and blogs from as far as Los Angles and Scotland, U.K., were calling for her safe return -- and they worked. Montgomery County Police confirmed Thursday that Yeutter was located and is in custody after bussing all the way from Maryland to California in less than 72 hours.
The hundreds of individuals who shared in the social media campaign to search for Victoria helped to find the missing girl, according to Yeutter family friend Fred Morris.
“Somebody on the bus thought it was suspicious that she was traveling so young,” Morris said. “She went on the page, recognized her and called the authorities.”
Morris’s daughter, Madeleine, and wife, Mary, had the idea of starting a Facebook page to look for Victoria after learning of her disappearance Monday. Madeleine, 14, a freshman at Winston Churchill High School, has been Victoria's friend since the two were in grade school together, and was devastated to hear of her friend’s disappearance. Madeleine said she remembered other successful missing person social media campaigns and hoped the same might work for Victoria’s case.
“We just wanted to get the word out,” Madeleine said. “That’s the fastest way anyone would see her picture.”
By Tuesday, a day after Victoria’s disappearance, the Facebook page had been shared hundreds of times, with posts tumbling into Twitter, blogs and Tumblr.
As family and friends fretted back home, the international search for Victoria culminated with a woman sitting on the same bus traveling to Oklahoma. After chatting with Victoria, the woman became suspicious of the young girl traveling by herself, Fred Morris said. The woman later checked a website for missing children and alerted police after recognizing the girl’s photo.
Victoria was in the custody of law enforcement in California as of 5:07 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, according to Montgomery County Police spokesperson Rebecca Innocenti.
Victoria’s bus on Wednesday made a scheduled stop a few hours outside Long Beach, California, where a local cop, aware of reports of the missing teenager, spotted her, according to an Omaha World-Herald report.
As of Wednesday night, Victoria was waiting in Los Angeles for a family member to fly out and accompany her back to Maryland on Thursday. Victoria’s mother, Cristy Yeutter, and father, Clayton Yeutter, a former U.S. Agriculture Secretary, are waiting for Victoria’s return in Maryland.
"We're just sorry that we've put a lot of other good people through this ... but hopefully when she gets back we can get things back on track again," Clayton Yeutter told the Omaha World-Herald.
Meanwhile, those hundreds of individuals who shared in Victoria’s search online are celebrating her safe return to the family. A message to followers was posted on the Facebook page Wednesday night:
“Victoria has been found, she's safe and she's in custody. Her family is working to bring her home. Thanks to all of you, Victoria was recognized. The family is so very grateful for the outpouring of love and support you gave to Victoria and her family! Thank you thank you thank you! We will share more with you as soon as we know more details!”
“We’re thrilled, thrilled,” Morris said. “Victoria didn’t even know about the [Facebook page]. Finally, something good came out of the Internet.”