A 21-year-old Safford woman who has been missing since Jan. 23 has been found, the Graham County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed.
Word that Liberty Salazar had been located first appeared Tuesday morning on the Facebook page Looking for Liberty Salazar.
“She has been located!” a post announced. “Thank you everyone for your prayers and support!”
Graham County Undersheriff Jeff McCormies verified the post was true.
McCormies said Salazar was found in Texas, and to the best of his knowledge, she was uninjured. He said she is in the care of Adult Protective Services in Texas.
The undersheriff did not elaborate on how Salazar came to be in the Lonestar State, although he did say investigators do not believe she was taken there against her will.
He said the incident was still under investigation. He said the No. 1 priority was to reunite the young woman with her family.
Although Salazar is an adult, she has medical and developmental disabilities that make her especially vulnerable to suggestion and possible physical harm, according to her mom, Scarlett Donaldson, and her former pediatric therapist, Tara Armstrong.
Salazar is autistic, and her mom has compared her intellectual and emotional development to that of a 10- or 11-year-old. Beyond that, she is epileptic and is prone to severe seizures, for which she takes regular medication.
These conditions previously compelled Donaldson to secure legal guardianship of her daughter to help keep her safe.
Armstrong worked with Salazar for six years and has known her family for 12. She said Salazar is naturally inclined to believe anything she’s told, a characteristic she attributed to autism.
“It makes it hard for her to see past the black and white,” Armstrong said. “It doesn’t matter if they are a stranger.”
Salazar went missing after she reportedly went outside to play in the snow, Donaldson previously told the Courier.
“She was so excited to play in it,” Donaldson said at the time. “After 15 minutes, we went to see what was going on, and we didn’t see her. We found her bike down the road, but not her. We drove the truck down the road by the highway, and she wasn’t down there. We drove up the highway and then down it, and then we called the sheriff’s department.”
The bike was found undamaged, lying on its side, Donaldson said. There was no indication at that time of a direction and course she may have taken.
A press release issued by the Sheriff's Office late Wednesday said evidence at the time indicated Salazar had not walked from the area.
The Sheriff’s Office said it entered Salazar into the ACIC/NCIC system as missing. Friends and family also began a campaign to locate her.
The Sheriff's Office said investigators eventually learned Salazar had been in contact with a male in Texas prior to her disappearance. They were able to secure assistance from the Harris County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office to find her on March 7.
The Donaldson family held a vigil Saturday at the Graham County Chamber of Commerce building in Safford to pray for Salazar’s safety and to promote awareness of potential dangers confronting young persons, especially those with disabilities.
A second vigil, scheduled for Thursday, was canceled, the Chamber of Commerce announced in a press release.