More details are emerging – but key questions remain – in the story of the Wisconsin woman who went missing nine years ago at age 16 and was discovered two months ago in Mexico, seeking a return to the United States.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Connie McCallister, 26, is not in good health at 98 pounds, and had been "working in the fields," according to Athens, Wis., church volunteer Judy Weise, who is leading a fundraising effort to bring her back to the United States.
McCallister is now the married mother of three, according to media reports. She disappeared at age 16, an honor roll student at Athens High School who fell for a 22-year-old man.
"He told her everything that she needed to hear, and she got involved with him," Weise said. "They went to a party in Milwaukee and (McCallister) called her sister and said, 'He won't bring me back,' and that's the last anyone heard from her, until Sept. 15 ."
McCallister had told a church missionary in Mexico that she was a missing person, and the missionary contacted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Weise said. Weise has been talking to the media since the Wausau Daily Herald broke the story Wednesday that McCallister had been found in September.
Weise said that McCallister's husband – who is not the man she disappeared with nine years ago – is supportive of their move to the United States, and McCallister is petitioning for him to return with her.
Among the unanswered questions in the story is why McCallister did not previously contact her family. Exactly where McCallister has been and what she has been doing is not yet known, her family says, and remains a story that only McCallister can tell, the Daily Herald reports.
McCallister's aunt, Florence Volzka, waited nine years for some sort of resolution to her fears about her niece, the Daily Herald reports. When a phone call came two months ago informing her that McCallister was alive, she burst into tears, the newspaper reported.
Little has been reported about what happened to the then-22-year-old boyfriend, who the Daily Herald identifies as Freddie Ruiz, and who is wanted on a sexual assault charge with an unrelated 12-year-old girl. McCallister's aunt told the Daily Herald her niece was not just a runaway and that Ruiz was a dangerous man.
Volzka said that Ruiz had drugged McCallister and took her to Mexico, The Associated Press reported.
Volzka said her niece is excited and cautious and understands that many adjustments lie ahead, the International Business Times reported. U.S. Consulate officials are working with McCallister to assemble the documents she needs to return, the AP reported.
Church volunteers say they hope to have McCallister back in Wisconsin by Christmas.
Wausau police are sure the woman in Mexico is Connie McCallister, the Times reported. “We have confirmed, through conversations on Skype, that this is really Connie, and she did ask for help in getting home,” Wausau Police Captain Greg Hagenbucher said. "But she won't come back without her children.”
The Times reported that McCallister's daughters are 3, 5 and 7, although the Journal Sentinel reports the ages as 1, 3 and 6.