A teen's big move across the country has now morphed into a terrifying mystery for her family. Morgan Bauer, 19, was last heard from on February 29, but has gone silent since. The teen had recently relocated to Atlanta from her hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota.
"She wanted to be her own person, move to a big city and spread her wings," Sherri Sichmeller, Morgan's mother, told Dateline. "For her to go completely silent on all counts is not her."
The teen caught a ride from Aberdeen to Minnesota with a friend, and then hopped on a flight bound for Atlanta on February 12, according to Atlanta police. Morgan's mother says her daughter had arranged to stay with a man she met on Craigslist, offering to clean and do other chores in exchange for rent until she settled into a job.
"I didn't want her to really go to Atlanta. It was something that was really worrying me. But Morgan does everything 100%. She's a "go big" kind of girl," Sherri told Dateline.
Then things began going awry. Morgan was allegedly kicked out of her temporary home. Determined not to return to Aberdeen, the teen checked into a motel and did what she could for money.
Although Morgan had experience as a waitress, she turned to dancing at a local club for money, her mother says. Officials have been unable to confirm which clubs she may have worked at, but several of the businesses told Morgan's family that, while she had inquired about work, she did not have the correct paperwork at the time.
"She was really in survival mode, and that's what is scaring me," Sherri told Dateline. "Who doesn't want to make it at 19 and hasn't made a not so great choice? But for her to be off the radar like this is scary."
Morgan, who normally is very active on her social media accounts and is "always in contact with her best friend," suddenly went mute. The teen stopped replying to her family and friends, with the last activity on her Snapchat account the night she vanished. Her phone has since either died or been turned off.
Atlanta police are investigating, but have not commented regarding any leads that may have been phoned in. While officials say foul play is not suspected, authorities have echoed the family's idea that they just want to be sure Morgan is safe.
"She isn't in trouble. Just, please, if you have the ability to contact and reach someone, do it," said Sherri. "But I have this feeling maybe she doesn't have that opportunity because of whatever has happened to her."
Sherri and her husband have traveled to Atlanta to pound the pavement with flyers including Morgan's photo. Thousands have offered support and encouragement online. Morgan's story and image have reportedly reached hundreds of thousands of people, as well as been captured on the front page of Imgur. Members in the Facebook group 'Missing Morgan' have topped 5,500 as of Monday morning.
But with the attention that Sherri says the family is so very grateful for, there come, at times, harsh words and rumors. While Sherri says she wants to thank each and every person sharing Morgan's story and image, she has a message for those posting unkind words.
"This isn't a story about a girl who was 'asking for it,' or who 'should have known better.' This is about a girl who is missing and needs to come home safely," says Sherri. "It doesn't matter; she's worth everything and is so loved. We want to the focus to just be about Morgan and finding her."
Morgan Bauer is described as 5'6" tall, weighing 125 lbs. with long brown hair and blue eyes. If you have any information regarding Morgan's whereabouts, please contact the Atlanta Police Missing Person Unit at (404) 546-4235.