Missing Ohio teen Madison Bell, 18, has been found safe after disappearing on Sunday, according to police.
Madison was reported missing around 11.20am on Sunday, May 17 after she left her home to visit a tanning salon a few hours before her high school.
Her car was later found abandoned in a church parking lot, unlocked with her cellphone and keys that were still inside, prompting immediate suspicion of improper play.
However, the Highland County Sheriff’s Office says now that Madison has been in contact to confirm that she is safe and left out of her own free will, but does not want her location published. Police say no arrests will be made in the case.
Missing Ohio teen Madison Bell, 18, has been found safe after disappearing on Sunday
Madison’s family was sure she wouldn’t leave alone just hours before graduation, but it now seems like she left willingly and didn’t want her family to find her
The teenager’s disappearance created a huge concern for society, and a $ 15,000 reward had been posted for information that led to her return.
Madison’s family released a statement saying, “We ask that the public and the media respect our integrity during this difficult time while we are emotionally raw.”
“We’re just relieved to know that Maddie is alive and not in physical danger.”
The family thanked all the agencies that participated in the massive search for the teenager, as well as the community for having gathered around them during the ordeal.
“Every effort to find Maddie has moved us and we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts,” the statement added.
The mysterious case quickly attracted national attention, with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine asking for the teen’s safe return and the FBI joining the investigation.
The teen disappeared just two days after tanning companies reopened in Ohio after a coronavirus stop.
When Madison, known to her family and friends as “Maddie”, did not return home from the tanning salon after about an hour, her mother began texting and calling her, but received no response.
Madison’s mother, Melissa Bell (left), and the teen’s longtime boyfriend, Cody Mann (right), made emotional pleas for her safe return during the week she was missing
Madison (pictured remains with her live-in boyfriend) was graduated on Sunday afternoon. Her mother said she would not have missed it
Mother Melissa Bell insisted that her daughter should never leave her family and friends, especially during graduation week.
“She would always contact me even if she were five minutes late,” said the upset mother after she disappeared.
Worried that Madison may have gotten into a car accident, her mother and longtime boyfriend drove together to the Good Shepherd Church parking lot near the Corner Market tanning salon, where they found her car.
“The windows are up, we open the door, her phone puts in it, her keys in the ignition, the change is in the container she had. The car was left unlocked, the mother told WHIO.” She would never leave her car unlocked, she would never leave the phone in there. “
Bell’s car was found abandoned with the keys still in the ignition in the parking lot of Good Shepherd Church in Highland County (pictured)
Madison Bell, 18 (left and right), was last seen leaving his home in Ross County, Ohio, on Sunday night. She was on her way to a tanning salon, but she never got there
Bell said she tried to unlock Madison’s phone but could not and handed it over to law enforcement.
Cody Mann, Madison’s boyfriend of five, broke down in tears and asked for her safe return during an interview with WXIX TV on Tuesday.
“She’s the most loving girl I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, I can’t even explain it … I just want her to come home,” he said through screams.
“See you when you come back is the last thing I could say,” he added.
This man, who was discovered near the area where Madison’s car was found, had been searched, but it is unclear if he has any connection to the case
More than 300 volunteers came out to search for Madison on Sunday and Monday, spending thousands of hours working to scour trails and forests and hand out flyers.
On Thursday, police released photos of a man and a car with California signs searched in connection with the case, saying the man was discovered in the parking lot where Madison’s car was found.
A church worker told police that the white four-door vehicle they saw in the lot stood out because there were no services due to COVID-19.
They said a white male was standing near the vehicle, which they believed had California license plates. A photo released by police was taken at a nearby company.
After Madison was confirmed safe, it was not clear if the man had any connection to her decision to leave her family without informing them.