By Tina Chen
Connie Lynn McCallister was 16 when she disappeared from her Wisconsin home nine years ago, but she recently surfaced in Mexico — along with a husband and three children — and her thrilled family hopes to be reunited with her in time for Thanksgiving.
The circumstances of her disappearance remain confusing, but McCallister’s family just wants her to come home to Wausau.
Her family is trying to raise money and complete documentation that would allow her to get back to Wisconsin by Thanksgiving.
“That would be awesome if we could get her home by Thanksgiving,” said Judy Weise, an administrative assistant at Trinity Lutheran Church which is holding a fundraiser for the family on Nov. 17.
“We hopefully will have enough money to bring her home and help her until she can get on her feet,” Weise told ABC News.
Connie McCallister, now 25, is the latest missing person to emerge years after a disappearance and Weise said the message the McCallister family wants to convey is “never give up hope.”
McCallister was last seen in 2004 when she was 16.
“Connie told officers that in 2004 she left Wausau voluntarily” with Freddie Ruiz, her then boyfriend, according to a statement by the Wausau police. The couple ended up at a party somewhere in either the Milwaukee or Chicago area, she claims. And there she thinks “someone may have drugged her” because she later awoke in Mexico.
The police statement said that McCallister’s mother Cindy McCallister talked to Connie a few days after her daughter and Ruiz left town. Cindy McCallister told police they both called to tell her that they were fine and they weren’t going to tell them where they were. According to the police report, Cindy McCallister “indicated in original statements to the police, that Connie and Freddie were probably trying to flee to Mexico.”
McCallister arranged to make contact with police in Wisconsin earlier this fall. The Wausau Police Department Skyped with McCallister in September to verify her identity.
Connie McCallister’s aunt, Florence Volzka told ABC News’ Wisconsin affiliate WAOW, “We Skyped and I cried for an hour. I literally cried. I saw her and it was her. I thank God every day.”
“I just want to hug her,” Volzka said. “It will be 10 years next August. That’s a long time.”
Connie McCallister was “a girl full of spirit, a go-getter, able to tackle any task that you said she couldn’t,” Weise recalled. “She was very determined and a very good kid.”
Weise explained that they prayed for her and waited to hear word back from the McCallister family. “Days turned into years and here we are today,” Weise said.
Their prayers were answered. “I felt tremendous relief” Weise said when she learned the good news, “we have a happy ending to our story, now we just have to get her back,” Weise said.
According to the police report, McCallister is waiting for the proper documentation and identification for herself as well as identification for her children and she hopes her husband — who is not Ruiz — will be able to follow soon after.