Search suspended for missing Inverness woman; family bands together in hopes of bringing her home

INVERNESS, Fla. (WFLA) – Danielle Phillips is on a mission and her focus is laser sharp. Her every move, every breath, every effort, she hopes brings her one step closer to the ultimate outcome — finding her grandmother.

It’s day six in the desperate search for 72-year-old Carol McHugh, who was last seen on Thursday near her Inverness home at the intersection of Skyline Drive and Regency Row.  Sadly, the missing grandmother hasn’t been seen since.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office exhausted all efforts during an intense, massive five-day search — deputies and searchers worked non-stop to locate Carol. On Tuesday evening, the search was suspended. That’s when her family took matters into their own hands and continued their efforts to search for McHugh.

They still express extreme gratitude for the deputies hard work, knowing, they tell us, that the agency did everything in their power to try to bring Carole home.

“The biggest hope is that we find her,” Carol’s granddaughter, Danielle, told News Channel 8 on Wednesday night.

For Carol’s other granddaughter, Danielle, a young Marine who works at the Pentagon, McHugh’s disappearance is the toughest battle she has ever faced. As Danielle’s eyes continuously scan the landscape near her grandmother’s home in Inverness, she has tears in her eyes as she explains the difficulty of “not knowing.”

“It such a roller coaster because every 15 minutes, every noise, every excitement, you feel it,” said Danielle. “It’s mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Danielle sat atop an airboat, flanked by her sister, friends and community members as they made their way through the dense, swampy surroundings near her grandmother’s home.

“I would say this feels like a deployment. You know, I’ve deployed twice, and this feels like a deployment,” she tells us, drawing a strikingly similar comparison to her time as a marine.

Locating Carol has become a non-stop grassroots effort from her family, friends, neighbors and even strangers — all participating, all anxious for information.

Danielle, her husband and family members have spent the last few days and nights passing out thousands of flyers, walking through countless neighborhoods, businesses and streets.

Her childhood friends, even people she’s never met have been volunteering their time, their boats, ATV’s and ultimately boundless energy to help her family locate their beloved grandmother.

Danielle says her spirit is bolstered each and every day knowing the people in Citrus County, where she was raised, have given her family constant love and support.

“It’s the only thing that lets me sleep even a little bit at night, knowing that the passion and the drive to find her is not just in our family, it’s in our Citrus County family.”

Those who know Carol admit that she has been experiencing symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s and most likely forgot where she was going. They are hoping that possibly a good Samaritan has assisted her in some way, and that she’s out there somewhere, just trying to find a way home.

“I hope we find her healthy, aware, Carol McHugh in our arms. That’s the biggest hope,” Danielle told us. “We just want any clue we can find.”

If you have seen Carol McHugh or know anything about this case, please call 911 immediately.

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