Highland County — UPDATE 5/23/20 @ 10:50 a.m.:
The Highland County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Madison Bell was found safe.
The sheriff’s office confirmed Saturday that Bell left of her own free will and does not want to disclose her location. No arrests will be made in this case.
The Highland County Sheriff is asking for help to find a high school senior who disappeared Sunday.
18-year-old Madison Bell was last seen going to a tanning business near Greenfield, in northeast Highland County. Her car, with her phone, wallet and keys inside, was found in a parking lot.
Her mother, Melissa Bell, told News Center 7’s Katy Anderson that surveillance pictures show a man with a white car with California license plates was seen in the parking lot shortly before Madison would have arrived there, which police are investigating as a lead. You can hear the entire interview by clicking the video at the top of this story.
Melissa Bell says she last saw her daughter when Madison told her she was going to tan, which she has done the last few days. When she didn’t return, her mother began to get worried.
“I start texting and calling, no response. I tried to look on find my iphone, and it was pinging between this church parking lot and the place where you could tan, which is right next to it,” she says.
Madison’s boyfriend tried calling and texting too, with no response.
“We decide at that point to drive out there, because maybe she fell asleep, did she wreck her car and no one has seen her? Because this is not her behavior, she never would do this. She would always contact me even if she was going to be 5 minutes late,” she says.
“We saw her car parked in this church parking lot. The windows are up, we open the door, her phone is laying in it, her keys in the ignition, the change is in the container she had. The car was left unlocked. She would never leave her car unlocked, she would never leave her phone in there.”
The parking lot is the Good Shepherd Church, which is next door to Corner Market, the business where Madison would go tanning.
Melissa Bell tried to unlock her daughter’s phone for clues, but couldn’t. She called police, and investigators have her phone now.
The panic and the fear began almost immediately for Melissa. “Distraught,” she says, “distraught because that’s my daughter and I know she would never do that. She’s a kid who if there is a line at McDonalds, and if it’s a 5-minute wait, she’s, ‘There’s a line mom, don’t worry about me.’”
A search party formed Sunday, with hundreds of people scouring the area, says her mother.
“Last night it consisted of over 300 people,” she says. “They were on ATVs, driving, all the roads, walking, all throughout the area.” The search resumed Monday morning.
“I know that something is wrong, because she would never…this is so out of character, she would never leave her dog her family her friends. This is graduation week and she was looking forward to this whole week,” she says.
Melissa Bell says she is committed to doing whatever it takes to bring her daughter home. She says she has gotten her picture out everywhere she can, across the country. She asks anyone who may have seen her to call the Highland County sheriff. She has a message for anyone who may have taken here. “If you have her let her go, take to a safe spot, a hospital, anywhere, just drop her off there, bring her home, get her home to us,” she says.
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