UPDATE | 7:50 a.m.
GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hailey Williams, 13, who was reported missing to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning, has been found safe in Pennsylvania.
The Erie County Sheriff’s office says Williams’ family was put in contact with State Police in Pennsylvania to pick her up. They’ve since been reunited.
Grand Island Central School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham shared a letter with district families on Friday morning, sharing the news that Williams had been found safe.
“As we reflect on the unique experiences related to this situation, we would ask all parents to contemplate how much access should be given to young children, as it related to social media and internet chat forums,” Dr. Graham said in the letter.
As a result of this incident, one person has been taken into custody. No charges have been announced.
Pennsylvania State Police announced Thursday night that investigators believe Hailey was transported to the Dauphin County and York County area, which is near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
She lives with her father and stepmother at the Country Glenn Apartments off Bedell Road on Grand Island. Williams was last seen around 11 p.m. when her step-mother, Jessica Williams, says she saw her in her bed. Jessica says she noticed Hailey was gone around 5 a.m. when she woke up for work. Williams’ family believes she snuck out a front window just before 1:45 a.m.
“I feel like it’s a total out of body experience. It’s something that’s not really true. It’s all a midnight dream,” Jessica Williams told News 4.
According to the Erie County Sheriff’s office, Williams is believed to have been lured away from home overnight after having conversations with someone who identified their self as “Dale” from Pennsylvania. Her family believes Hailey was in contact with this person before her disappearance and that it was planned.
“We have some information that we did release to the cops and the FBI that they are going to deal with,” Jessica Williams said. “We were told that she hates school. That she just wanted to be on her own and live her life and just do her.”
Jessica Williams does not believe Hailey is in New York State.
“It’s a felony to take someone across state lines, to kidnap someone and take them across state lines. So the FBI would get in on that basis,” Bernie Tolbert, former FBI Special Agent in Charge, told News 4.
FBI Buffalo confirmed to News 4 on Thursday that they are involved in the investigation into Williams’ disappearance. Grand Island Police were also seen near her home.
She’s 5’4″ and weighs 180 pounds. She has recently-dyed reddish-orange hair and is believed to be wearing ripped jeans, a black sweater and a gray hat with “California” embroidered on it. The Sheriff’s office says she left her phone behind.
The Grand Island Central School District announced Thursday that one of its middle school students that Williams was missing and pleading with the public to help find her. School Superintendent Dr. Brian Graham sent a message to Grand Island families on Thursday morning.
“When somebody is missing, we want to pull out all the stops to make sure we can support the needs of all of our students,” Superintendent Brian Graham said.
Superintendent Graham says Hailey loves art and was being considered for advanced classes. He says this case highlights the dangers of social media and he encourages parents to monitor their children.
“I would stress so importantly that parents reconsider giving young children access to those devices,” Superintendent Graham said.
“There’s so many more children that are lured into something because of social media. Either they are in touch with someone, sometimes it’s a person who is posing as a child, an adult or a criminal,” Tolbert added.
Most of all, everyone wants Hailey home safe and sound as soon as possible.
“It’s very terrifying. Hailey, if you are hearing this, if you are seeing this, just know that we love you. Everybody wants you to come home. We understand that school is rough. Home life can be rough, but we just want you home safe and we can try to do the best we can to help you get through whatever you’re going through at the moment,” Jessica Williams said.
Anyone with information on Williams’ whereabouts is asked to call the Erie County Sheriff’s office at (716) 858-TIPS or (716) 858-8477.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.
Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.