A 55-year-old Riverside woman last seen by her family on March 5 and reported missing on March 13 has been found unharmed in Tennessee, according to Riverside police, who have been working continuously on the case for more than a week.
Police and family have had no idea where Lisa Ann Vais was since March 14, when her cellphone last pinged in the vicinity of Murphy, North Carolina, in the far southwest corner of the state.
But, on March 22 at about 3 p.m., detectives received an automatic notification that Vais cellphone had started to ping in a densely wooded, remote area in the Cherokee National Forest in southeast Tennessee, about 25 miles west of Murphy, North Carolina.
Detectives contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which patrols that area of the state. They located Vais as she walked out of the woods in Turtletown. She reportedly told police she had been in the woods for about 10 days.
Police notified her family and Vais was taken to a hospital in Blue Ridge, Georgia, as a precaution. Police have not yet recovered her vehicle.
“My officers, detectives and our consolidated dispatch center employees worked on this case almost around the clock since Lisa Vais was reported missing,” said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel in a press release. “I am thankful she was found alive and is now getting proper medical treatment at a hospital. Every resource available was used in order to locate this missing Riverside resident, and I am glad to see that their efforts paid off.”
In the days prior to the last time Vais’ phone signaled her location on March 14, she had been seen twice elsewhere in North Carolina, said Weitzel. She was briefly at a hospital on March 11 in Fletcher, about 15 miles south of Ashville. On March 13, she visited a Food Lion grocery store in Brevard, where she reportedly purchased a large amount of non-perishable food.
Riverside police interviewed store employees, who said the 55-year-old Vais was alone and that they assisted her with loading the food into her vehicle. The store’s management also sent police surveillance camera video from inside the store that shows Vais exiting the store.
Someone also reached out to police on March 15 after news stories about Vais’ disappearance started circulating to report seeing someone matching Vais’ description walking on a roadway at 6:30 p.m. in the area of the John W. Morrow Parkway and Jessie Jewel Parkway in Gainesville, Georgia, about 55 miles northeast of Atlanta.
Police say that sighting was unconfirmed and that Gainesville police had no report of any incident involving Vais.