Police: Missing Bonney Lake girl had changed appearance when found
BONNEY LAKE, Wash. - A motorist who was driving by a Puyallup bus stop on Sunday is being credited with spotting a 15-year-old Bonney Lake girl who had been missing for three weeks.
Officer Daron Wolschleger of Bonney Lake Police Department said the missing girl, Lilieana "Lily" Christopherson, had a changed appearance when found. But the passing motorist recognized her anyway - due to saturation coverage by the media of her disappearance - and notified police.
Lily was alone at the bus stop in the 2200 block of South Meridian Way when she was spotted at about 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Police have no control over the $10,000 reward being offered for information on Lily's whereabouts, but Wolschleger said the motorist who spotted her will likely receive the money. The name of the motorist was not released.
Officials said Lily remains in the hospital Monday undergoing treatment and has been reunited with her family. Her mother, Lena Winters, tells KOMO News she got a chance to embrace her daughter on Sunday and it was a "wonderful feeling."
Wolschleger said investigators hope they can now fill in missing gaps in the timeline when Lily was missing. Anyone with information is urged to contact Bonney Lake police.
Some officials theorize that the widespread publicity over Lily's disappearance ultimately pressured her captors to abandon her at the bus stop where she was found.
The publicity also generated many helpful tips from the public, Wolschleger said. "We're thankful for the large amount of tips we received in this investigation," he said. "It was very helpful."
Lily went missing after leaving her parents' home on May 9 and taking a bus to Federal Way. Police say she was last reported to have been at an apartment on 327th Lane in Federal Way.
Investigators said she had been seen with Christopher Fitzpatrick, a registered sex offender. He was arrested on May 26, but Lily wasn't with him. He along with Maria Counts have been charged with kidnapping and sex trafficking.
A third person has also been arrested in connection to Lily's disappearance.
That person, a Bonney Lake man who has not yet been charged, was found to be in possession of Lily's cell phone, according to court documents. Police also believe that the third suspect misled investigators about the nature and extent of his contact with Lily, the court file says.
"I'm very proud to send out the message to these horrible people 'you can't take our children because we're going to come get them back,' " said family friend Damaris Kaufman.
Family, friends, and neighbors in communities across the South Sound area distributed flyers and helped create a $10,000 reward for information leading to finding Lily.
Wolschleger said several state, local and national law enforcement agencies worked around the clock in the ultimately successful search for Lily.
Her mother Lena Winters wrote in a statement: "I finally got to hold my baby girl and tell her how much she is loved. It was such a relief to my heart. Now the healing can begin. Thank you for everything."
A second statement from the family, issued by Lily's father A.J. Christopherson and Winters through family friend Carlie Hawthorne that said:
"They would just like to thank you guys. For all of your support, and all of your help, everybody in the community. We are so grateful for everything you guys have done. They are so grateful for keeping her name out there, keeping her face circulating. For continuing to push through and help finding her. They cannot express their gratitude enough.
"It's going to be a long recovery process and all they ask is just to please give them time with their daughter and allow them to contact you when they are ready.
"Again, they thank everyone who stepped up and helped us bring her home safe and sound! There is not a word to explain how grateful they are!!!! God bless you all and blessed be!!"