Officials: Missing Cincinnati teen changed appearance, fled authorities

Published: Aug. 5, 2016 at 1:16 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 7, 2016 at 2:32 AM EDT
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Jackson at the Groundwork Cincinnati youth employment program. (Provided by Groundwork...
Jackson at the Groundwork Cincinnati youth employment program. (Provided by Groundwork Cincinnati)

MOOSE, WY (FOX19) - The Cincinnati teenager who vanished while hiking in a national park has been found safe, according to Groundwork USA.

16-year-Fauna Jackson was volunteering at Grand Teton National Park when she took a bathroom break and disappeared Thursday morning.

The Clark Montessori High School student was discovered at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, about four miles from where she was last seen. Officials say Jackson changed her appearance - she changed her clothes and also cut and dyed her hair. Jackson fled when authorities approached her Saturday, according to the National Park Service.

"This I don't think anyone saw coming but right now we're just relieved," said Tanner Yess, a Youth Leader with Groundwork Cincinnati.

He was with Fauna before her disappearance.

"I think anyone who knows Fauna is completely aware or can attest to her spirit, her aptitude, her intelligence, her determination. She's capable of doing anything she puts her mind to, like a lot of youth," said Yess.

"Her condition appears to be good," James Bennett, Jackson's step father said. "We're just so happy to have our beloved daughter back."

Jackson's family expects to bring her home as early as Monday. "Tears of loss and remorse last night became tears of ecstatic joy," Bennett said.

She is currently being evaluated at a hospital. However, it is not clear if she sustained any injuries during her two days in the park.

Jackson left Cincinnati nine days ago, according to Robin Corathers, executive director of Groundwork Cincinnati. She was supposed to return home Friday with three other volunteers from the local Groundwork chapter.

Jackson was part of a 20-member group working with the organization on a service project inside the park.

Park officials were calling the search an "all-hands-on-deck" effort involving multiple agencies, including the FBI. Around 100 people scanned the park Friday along with specialized dog teams and helicopters.

On Thursday, aerial patrols used infrared imaging to detect heat sources on the ground, a park spokesperson said. She was last seen on the east side of US Hwy 89 near Triangle-X Ranch inside the park.

Groundwork USA is a national organization that works on environmental projects.  Jackson was part of a 20-member youth crew that had been working in the park for the past week.

"This was something that she really wanted to do.  She was excited when she was chosen to go to Grand Teton," said Corathers.

Jackson last posted to her Instagram account on Wednesday, saying it was her last day in Wyoming and that she "can't wait to be home and see everyone."

In a statement released Friday, Cincinnati Public Schools said their "thoughts and prayers are with Fauna and her family, and the Clark community, during this difficult time."

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