Towson teen found unharmed after 3 days

Community posted fliers, formed search teams

February 27, 2004|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Along York Road in Towson, purple ribbons were tied around every other tree. More than 1,500 fliers were posted, in White Marsh, Fells Point and in rest areas on the highway to New York. E-mails spread the word, and search teams fanned out from Stoneleigh on foot and by car.

In Baltimore County, at least 2,000 children and teen-agers are reported missing every year. But police said few cases generate the unified response seen in the hunt that began Monday for 16-year-old Michelle Caltrider.

Yesterday, the effort paid off. Police, acting on a tip, found the teen-ager unharmed.

"She's safe. She's home," said her visibly relieved mother, Gail Caltrider, sharing the good news with neighbors in front of their house in Stoneleigh. "We want to thank everyone."

The Notre Dame Preparatory School sophomore, who was found at a house in Northeast Baltimore about 2 p.m. yesterday, did not give police details about where she had been, said Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman. No charges were expected to be filed in connection with her disappearance, he said.

Michelle, suffering from depression, left her parents' house without warning Monday evening. Within minutes, her mother had called 911 and told several of her daughter's friends to be on the lookout.

Police sent a helicopter, a search dog and patrol officers. But neighbors quickly outnumbered them as they formed the search teams, sent alerts via e-mail and copied and posted missing-person fliers.

Within hours, casseroles filled the family's refrigerator and prayer chains were activated.

"It's quite remarkable the way the community came behind this family," said Toohey.

The fliers made their way from e-mail networks at private schools in the Baltimore area to book clubs, athletic groups, churches, friends and relatives - some as far as Texas.

Forty neighbors filled the family's living room Wednesday to tie ribbons for trees in the neighborhood.

"People wanted to do something to help," said neighbor Karen McGagh, who helped search for Caltrider. "We're all so glad she's home. ... We're going to leave the purple ribbons up. We don't want her to forget how many people love her."

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