HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A missing Hillsborough County girl who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome was found alive Thursday morning in Pasco County, 37 hours after she was last seen by her parents at her home. Investigators say the girl walked from Hillsborough to Pasco County.
Crews searched overnight for 11-year-old Jenna Irmler, who lives in the Bloomingdale area with her family. She was discovered missing at 5 a.m. on Wednesday when her parents went to check on her and was last seen by her parents at 9 p.m. Tuesday in the family’s kitchen.
Jenna was found safe in Zephyrhills on Thursday morning. A citizen at a convenience store on Paul S. Buchman Highway recognized Jenna from her photo, then authorities were contacted.
“She was not ready to be found,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee. “We think she was trying to avoid contact with anyone trying to find her.”
Sheriff Gee said that Jenna ran away because of problems she had. He said that Jenna had left home previously, but for short periods of time and she usually remained in her neighborhood.
Neighbors say they often see her out walking in the neighborhood.
“Jenna’s a good girl. There are some woods across the street that are nice to walk in to be by yourself. I hear that’s what she likes to do every now and then,” says neighbor Jerry Synowiec.
But this time, Jenna walked far from her home in the Bloomingdale area of Hillsborough County to Zephyrhills in Pasco County. Investigators described Jenna as “determined,” saying she walked the entire way, through the rain and slept in the woods.
Soon after Jenna was found on Thursday, authorities began working to reunite her with her parents. She arrived back at her home around 12:20 p.m. on Thursday.
The 11-year-old also underwent a medical evaluation and was found to be unharmed.
Gee said that hundreds of people helped with the search for Jenna, including HCSO deputies who searched by air, by ground and with K-9 units. Deputies also collected security footage from businesses in the area in their search for Jenna.
“We’re very fortunate we had a good outcome,” he said.
Gee said that the sheriff’s office will suggest support groups for the family.
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