VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Michigan – A nationwide search has ended safely for a 15-year-old boy and his 13-year-old girlfriend, who turned up in Louisiana nine days after fleeing their Michigan homes in the boy's family minivan.
Hannah McConnell and Gage Petherbridge were found Monday in Cameron Parish, Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell told WJRT-TV and The Flint Journal.
The boyfriend and girlfriend were playing with seagulls on a Gulf of Mexico beach, just east of the Texas state line, authorities say.
An ambulance driver recognized the teens in Holly Beach on Monday afternoon and called police. The Cameron Parish sheriff's department got a tip Monday that the teens had been spotted in the area Sunday afternoon.
Gage and Hannah apparently realized they were being watched and tried to drive away, but a police officer stopped them.
Gage's stepfather, Duane Wismer, said he was relieved the ordeal was over.
"It's awesome," Wismer told The Detroit News Monday evening for an online story. "They're safe and they're not going anywhere. That's all we can ask for."
"We've overjoyed," Hannah's mother, Julie McConnell, told the Detroit Free Press. "I don't know the details but we're told they're safe. I can't tell you how thrilled we are."
The two teens are being held in separate cells at the sheriff's office until their parents come to get them, which is expected to be in the next two to three days, Cameron Parish Sheriff's detective Joey Babineaux told the Free Press.
The teens told police that they spent Sunday night in Port Arthur, Texas before returning to Holly Beach Monday morning. They didn't say why they returned to Louisiana, Babineaux said.
On Jan. 12, the teens left their homes in Vienna Township, about 65 miles north-northwest of Detroit. They took Gage's family van, his cocker spaniel Mandy and about $680 in cash. Gage has a learner's permit.
Pickell said authorities used clues from a phone call to a friend and a recent update to Hannah's MySpace page. Wismer said the dog also is safe.