CONWAY, Ark. – On Thursday, The Conway Police Department and the U.S. Marshal Services held a press conference about a teen who was brought back home Wednesday after she was last seen on January 17th.
Conway Police Chief William Tapley said 15-year-old Tanvi Marupally was located after a tip came in Tuesday thousands of miles away in Tampa, Florida.
For months, community members like Jenny Wallace said they were praying for Marupally’s safe return after she has led several search parties for the family.
“I’m just blown away.” Wallace went on to say she felt, “just absolute relief and that it was a miracle.”
Tapley said before they were able to bring Marupally back home they had limited information on her whereabouts.
After speaking with her, they learned on the day she went missing instead of catching a school bus, she walked north until she reached railroad tracks. Then began to walk north along them through the night until she was able to board a train to Kansas City.
We have learned that the train was a freight train.
Tapley said Marupally left because she was afraid her family would be deported because her father was at risk of losing his job. Which her father told us back in February that was no longer a concern.
Tapley goes on to say after she boarded the train, she arrived in Kansas City on January 22nd where she found a homeless shelter to stay at for 2 months.
“She checked into that homeless shelter under a false identity,” Tapley said.
After staying there, he said she decided to catch a bus randomly to Tampa, Florida.
“She found an abandoned building that she began to reside in,” Tapley said.
Tapley then said that on March 28th, a Florida citizen recognized Marupally’s description on the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children’s Website while at a library and secretly took a photo of her to send to authorities.
“She was researching jobs that she could do for money off of Craigslist,” Tapley said.
On Wednesday March 29th, Tapley said by luck when Tampa police investigated and went to the library to check security video, Marupally had returned there to do more research.
Police were able to speak with her before bringing her into protective custody. They made same-day arrangements for Marupally to come home and reunite with her family.
Tapley thanked the community of Conway for their help even when he said they were at odds sometimes.
“We were not always in agreement, we did not always see things the same way, however we all had the same goal in mind,” Tapley said.
Wallace said she still has unanswered questions after learning how much Marupally was able to travel by herself.
“What has the department done and what has the police chief done to put this out nationally,” Wallace said.
Tapley said he believes the department worked tirelessly when we asked if they felt they did everything in their power to find Marupally.
“We followed up on countless leads, countless tips, sightings, videos, all of these different things but until yesterday (Wednesday) until last night there was no viable Information.” Tapley said.
Tapley and U.S. Marshall Jeremy Hammons spoke about Marupally’s resourcefulness.
“She was maintaining out there,” Tapley said, adding that the girl had a phone when Tampa police found her. He did not know how she had gotten the phone.
Despite this, the chief said there was no indication that Marupally received any help in her travels.