New details on search, disappearance of Madison Bell released by sheriff

Missing Highland County teen Maddie Bell found safe
Missing Highland County teen Maddie Bell found safe
Updated: May. 26, 2020 at 1:57 PM EDT
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HIGHLAND COUNTY., Ohio (FOX19) - More information surrounding the disappearance of Madison Bell was released on Tuesday by the Highland County sheriff.

Madison “Maddie” Bell went missing on May 17 which launched a massive search spanning almost a week.

A few days into the search for the 18-year-old, the Highland County Sheriff’s Office released a photo of a man they were trying to identify in connection with Bell’s disappearance.

The FBI, a national search team, loved ones and local law enforcement searched every day for Bell.

Finally, on the morning of May 23, it was announced she had been found safe and unharmed.

Bell “left to start a new life,” according to Highland County Sheriff Donald Barrera.

Related | Highland County 18-year-old found; ‘left to start new life’ sheriff says

As it turns out, the 18-year-old Bell was with the man authorities were trying to identify earlier that week, Sheriff Barrera says.

The sheriff says Bell and this man, whose identity and age still hasn’t been released, met online and had been talking for a while.

Bell was unaware there was a search for her until another police agency found her and told her, according to Sheriff Barrera.

How much money the search for Bell cost is unknown but Sheriff Barrera says it was likely thousands of dollars.

“I don’t know of anything criminal that could be done,” FOX19 NOW legal expert Mike Allen explained. “On the civil end, you know anybody can sue anybody for anything, but I don’t see that being successful either. I think the thought would be that ‘hey, you know that’s the cops’ job.' I understand where people are coming from with it, but I don’t see any avenue to recovery on a civil action either.”

Sheriff Barrera says no charges have been filed at this time.

Since Bell is 18, she thought there was no problem with her leaving, the sheriff says.

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