The parents of a 17-year-old American exchange student found safe in Brazil four days after she went missing said Friday they were relieved with the “good ending.”
Steve and Stephanie Martin thanked Brazilian authorities whose intense search helped find their daughter, Mykensie, unharmed in northeastern Brazil. The parents arrived in Brasilia on Friday morning to reunite with their daughter, a high school senior from Bend, Ore.
“We know she’s been in care of such good people,” said Stephanie Martin, holding back tears. “I’m so thankful that this ended happily.”
The girl’s mother mentioned the “not-so-happy case” of Natalee Holloway, an 18-year-old Alabama teen missing in Aruba since May 30.
Mykensie left her host city in the central state of Minas Gerais on Sunday to travel 40 miles by bus to Patos de Minas, where she regularly attended Mormon church services. She was reported missing when she did not return that day.
She turned up Thursday at a police station in the coastal city of Salvador, about 690 miles northeast of Brasilia, accompanied by a young Brazilian man identified as Marcos Alves.
Police said Alves helped Martin escape being robbed and assaulted Tuesday at a Salvador beach after she arrived there from Brasilia on an overnight bus.
Before showing up in Salvador, the teen was seen hitchhiking from Unai, a town 80 miles from Brasilia. Authorities said she stayed at a small hotel in Brasilia on Sunday night and talked with hotel workers about places to visit in Brazil.
Her parents said they did not know why their daughter went on the journey.
'It was all very complicated'
Mykensie told the local media in Salvador that “it was all very complicated,” but did not elaborate. She also said she had decided not to finish her yearlong exchange program, which she started in July.
“It’s not that I want to go back to the U.S. because I love Brazil. Everything was perfect,” she said. “I’d rather stay here but now that I made this decision, I know I have to, you know.”
The teen and her parents met privately later in Brasilia, U.S. Embassy spokesman Wesley Carrington said. They were set to return home Saturday, he said.
“We are just happy that we are here in Brazil and that this was a good ending,” Steve Martin told reporters shortly after arriving in the South American country’s capital.
“We want to thank the authorities and the media,” he said. “It’s a heartfelt thank you for what you have done ... for all the attention you gave to this.”