The dense woods of Central Florida are an unforgiving environment. Riddled with nature’s obstacles of vines, dense scrub brush and an abundance of hungry insects, let alone larger animals. Those were the daunting surroundings Elizabeth Parker, 98, disappeared into yesterday.
When her daughter Katie Wayne and Katie’s husband Gary arrived home in the early evening, they discovered the elderly woman was nowhere to be found. Parker is frail, doesn’t drive and uses a walker, so the couple immediately called 911.
Lake County Sheriff’s officers and assisting first responders fanned out to scour the nine acres on Lake Joanna with bloodhounds and a helicopter. The intense effort went non-stop until 2:30 a.m., when the search was suspended until daybreak. The family spent an emotional night fearing for Parker’s safety. “It was not a good night, to say the least.” said Gary. Early this morning deputies returned to the property and added divers to the search. Rescuers found Parker, who has no history of dementia, at approximately 10 a.m. this morning, lying under a large palm frond in a densely wooded area with only minor cuts and scrapes.
ABOVE: Parker (center) with Gary Wayne (left).
"The area was so dense, even a gorilla would have a difficult time getting there," said Gary of Parker's location. After spending the night isolated in a precarious environment, Parker was remarkably unshaken by the experience. She exited the woods on her own feet with the help of rescuers and Gary. As she saw her son-in-law cry, Parker responded, “Don’t worry, it all turned out okay.” She was transported to the hospital for closer examination. “The rescuers were very concerned and took it real serious,” said Gary of all the first responders. “I credit them a hundred percent for saving her life. The officers were top notch.” There is no doubt that tomorrow will be a very special Mother’s Day for the Wayne family.
It's not the ending that everyone hoped. Tragically, Justis Garrett, the teen missing from Mount Dora, was found deceased in a remote wooded area about a quarter mile off of Gasline Road in DeLand.
Garret, 16, was dropped off at school in Mount Dora on April 13 and did not return home. She was believed to be in the New Smyrna Beach area at the time.
At about 7:50 p.m. April 18, DeLand Police were dispatched after joggers believed they saw human remains near a running path. Police responded to the area and confirmed the discovery which had appeared to have been in the area for some time, according to DeLand Police Chief Jason Umberger.
An autopsy was performed to identify Garrett and help determine the circumstances surrounding her death. Anyone with any information is asked to call DeLand Police Department at 386-626-7400 or leave an anonymous tip at www.volusia.crimewatchflorida.com .
It wasn't exactly a day like any other, even for Florida.
Last week, the peacefulness of a neighborhood in The Villages was interrupted by an welcome visit from a massive alligator. The reptile was discovered laying on a front lawn in the community about 30 miles northwest of Mount Dora. Reportedly, no one was home when the animal, which measured 11 feet, 7 inches, paid its visit.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission representatives 'worked' the spirited animal to tire it out before wrangling it to tape its mouth closed and haul it away.
Alligators are found in all 67 counties in Florida.