Missing woman found safe in Novato

February 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A mentally disabled woman, missing from Novato for two days, is being evaluated after being found alive Friday morning.

Twenty-eight-year-old Teresa Valencia was spotted on a hilltop and taken to Novato Community Hospital.

Teresa Valencia was cold, her chest aching, her heart hurting, say relatives, but very much alive when she after being missing for 48 hours. It's not the ending relatives expected.

"When someone is missing, we always say, well, somebody took her, something bad is going to happen. But we thank God that nothing like that happened. We're really happy that she's okay," said Elia Valencia, Teresa's niece.

Not only is Teresa mentally challenged, she's only been in the United States a couple months, barely speaks any English, though she was taking English classes and speaks broken Spanish.

Her brother, who'd come up from Los Angeles, thought the worst after her second night missing.

"I thought something happened, maybe I never see her again," said Jaime Valencia, Teresa's brother.

Valencia went for a walk Wednesday morning and seemed to disappear in thin air. Marin County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue team, made up of volunteers, was called out.

Members also seemed to be searching in places that suggested a tragic ending.

People turned up at the Novato police station to see if they could help.

"It was a touching story. I wanted to do whatever I can to help find her," said Doug Shannon, a volunteer.

Novato police employed what they call the "tens system."

"It's phone calls that goes to residents, asks them to check their backyards and what not, to assist us," says Sgt. Earl Tilman with Novato Police.

A woman walking her dog saw Valencia on the hill top yesterday, but it wasn't until she saw the news reports Friday morning that she contacted law enforcement. Together, they went back to the same spot on the hillside, and there in a red blanket was a cold woman, shivering and scared, but alive.

Family members say they are stunned that Teresa made it as far as she did. Until Wednesday morning, she had never gone more than one block from her home.