Teen Son Missing Nearly Two Years. Parents Stunned When Cops Show Them Photos

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On May 24, 2016, Michael Carroll dropped his 15-year-old son, Aubrey, off at the bus stop for school and “everything seemed fine.”

But when Aubrey’s stepmother went to pick him up from the same bus stop that afternoon, Aubrey was nowhere to be seen.

Michael tried to contact his son’s friends on social media before reporting him missing.

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A year after his disappearance, Dateline talked with investigators from the Spalding County Sheriff’s office and learned that Aubrey had left school with a friend on the day of his disappearance. After being told that he couldn’t stay overnight at his friend Cameron McCree’s house, Aubrey reportedly asked friends for a ride to the nearest Flying J Truck Stop.

He was in contact with friends on May 26, 2016, but hadn’t been heard from since. Investigators originally believed he would return on his own, but as time passed, Aubrey’s family became more worried about their missing son.

“Initially, we believed he ran away,” Sheriff Darrell Dix said. “But then we don’t know what happened.”

The 15-year-old was listed on the FBI’s missing persons website presumably kidnapped and in danger.

Now, two years later, Aubrey has been found alive and well! The authorities met with his parents on April 10 to tell them what they discovered in the investigation.

“(We) showed them pictures of Aubrey and shared with them a Facebook page that he had launched under an assumed identity,” Sheriff Dix said in a press release. “We also found that over the time since Aubrey left, he had no less than five personal contacts with law enforcement agencies ranging from Alabama to Arizona under his assumed identity.”

Aubrey had apparently become “a part of a group of people who live by bartering, operating with cash only, and traveling from state to state.”

“He told us that he left on his own, and had not been abducted, hurt, abused, exploited, or harmed in any way,” Sheriff Dix said.

After reuniting with his mother under “certain conditions that he wanted in place such as who he would talk to and where he would go when he got home,” Aubrey appeared with the sheriff in a Facebook video saying that he was safe.

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“I’d like to tell y’all — thank y’all so much for all your prayers and looking out for my mama. I appreciate y’all so much,” Aubrey said. “I’m all right. I’m OK. I’ve been smiling, and y’all should do the same.”

I can’t even imagine the relief his mother felt when she knew that her boy had not been hurt and had been reunited with her.

“What matters is that he is safe, healthy and unharmed,” Sheriff Dix said.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith