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UPDATE: Sam has been identified by family as Ashley Manetta. Manetta is 53, never married and has sisters in Colorado and Maryland. She was born in Pennsylvania, lived in Flagstaff, Arizona, and several years ago found her way to Southern California, where she lived in La Jolla, Vista, and Carlsbad, according to NBC San Diego.
For more information on the case, you can visit the station's website here.
A mystery has captivated audiences across social media and law enforcement agencies around the world, all aimed at answering this question: Who is Sam?
It all started in early February, when a woman only known as Sam was found barely conscious on the streets in the small California beach resort community of Carlsbad, just north of San Diego. Sam was unable to give emergency responders any information, and she had nothing with her that would give any clue to who she was.
“I just feel like there’s a thick fog over my mind, my memory, over my brain that I can’t see through,” Sam told NBC San Diego. “I can’t remember anything. How I got here? I didn’t have anything on me, no jewelry, no purse, nothing.”
Doctors diagnosed her with retrograde amnesia — and a deadly form of ovarian cancer. They think the amnesia might have been brought on by the antibodies of a malignant tumor, according to NBC San Diego.
One thing that may offer a possible clue to Sam's past is the way she talks, using the word "bloke" for man and "loo" for the bathroom, and an accent suggesting a possible connection with Australia. Sam also says she's been having vivid and recurring dreams linking to just that place. "I started dreaming of Australia. That was my first recollection of anything," Sam said.
She told NBC San Diego that she's desperate to find her family — and is convinced someone out there is looking for her, too.
"I have this dream of this bloke in my dreams all the time," she said through tears. "I don't know if I was married to him. I just… I just know I think so."
Several people have come forward saying they know Sam, but the stories vary. A Carlsbad resident says she knows Sam from a bible study class at St. Patrick Catholic Church, which is located at the intersection where Sam was found back in February. The woman told NBC San Diego says Sam spoke about living in Australia. Another woman commented that she believes she knew Sam 20 years ago in Flagstaff, Arizona, but by another name. But she says Sam isn't Australian at all, but 100% American and would sometimes break into an English accent.
Others have taken to the web to debate where Sam's accent is really from, commenting online that her accent sounds more English. The Facebook page 'Found Woman with Amnesia', created by some of Sam's friends from the hospital, has garnered more than 19,000 likes since its creation.
The FBI has taken her finger prints and used facial recognition software in an effort to locate her family, according to NBC San Diego. Interpol also has added her to its international missing persons database, listing "Sam" as a Caucasian female who "appears to be in her 50s."
Experts say her case is highly unusual.
"I have rarely seen anything like this," said Dr. Dean Sherzai, a neurologist whose research has focused on memory loss.
Sam says she hopes all the efforts will help someone reunite her with her identity, and her loved ones.
"I’m hoping that someone sees me... or something on the Internet and my family immediately says, ‘There she is!, there she is!’"