HARTFORD, Conn. – The 15-year-old girl who was missing for a year until police found her locked in a tiny storage room in a West Hartford home plans to return to school Monday to restore a sense of normalcy to her life, her parents said.
The girl, who was 14 when she ran away from her Bloomfield home last year, is excited to return to classes as a freshman, her mother told The Associated Press.
"She really needs to be a normal kid again. She's all for it," she said.
The school and town are not being disclosed. Some public schools in Connecticut have classes through June and alternative schools may run later.
The teen was discovered Wednesday in a house owned by Adam Gault, 41, a dog trainer.
Police believe she thought Gault was a friend. She had talked to Gault frequently before she ran away last June. Gault had filed a police report on the girl's behalf before she vanished, claiming a friend of her family had sexually abused her, but police said there was no evidence to support charges. Police have cleared her family of any suspicion of abuse.
Little has been disclosed about the girl's experiences during her year in Gault's home. Police have said school officials reported she had not attended any classes during the past year. Her parents, their attorney and police will not discuss what she has told them, saying they don't want to upset her or jeopardize the criminal cases. Police said she was forced to live under an assumed name in Gault's home.
Police have charged Gault with the girl's disappearance and are trying to determine if he had an inappropriate relationship with her and other underaged girls.
The girl remains in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families. Her parents have visited her daily since she was found and plan to reunite her with her three brothers and other relatives in the next several days.
Two women who lived in the home also face charges: Ann Murphy, 40, described by police as Gault's common-law wife; and Kimberly Cray, 26, with whom the teenager had worked as a dog trainer before her disappearance.
Before her disappearance, the teen had run away and returned several times. But her family knew something was different last year because it seemed that she had just vanished.
"It's hard to hold onto hope. It is," her mother said. "But I always thought that somebody was hiding her. It was a little too convenient the way she disappeared and there was no trace."
Police and the FBI are investigating tips that Gault may have had inappropriate relationships with other girls in Connecticut and other states. They also are going through computer evidence, videotapes and other items from his home, and say additional charges are possible.
The girl's parents had no idea that police were searching Gault's home until a detective called Wednesday, saying: "I have some good news for you."
They were reunited with her later that day.
"I snatched her up, held her to me, told her I loved her. I picked her right up off her feet and told her again how much I loved her," her mother said. "She did the same thing. She didn't want to let her mom go. She's my only girl; she and I have a bond."
Her parents are trying to use the media attention to help other people waiting for missing loved ones to return. Their message: Don't give up.
"Let your heart tell the story, not your mind," her father said. "Your mind will run tricks all over you and get you depressed. Your heart will tell you to always have hope and keep believing."