Madison Bell: Missing Ohio teen found safe wanted ‘to start a new life’ [Update]

An Ohio teen missing for nearly a week has been reunited with her family, WXIX-TV reports.

Madison “Maddie” Bell disappeared May 17 after she didn’t return from what she told her mother would be a trip to a tanning salon. Bell’s vehicle was subsequently found in a church parking lot, with the keys still in the ignition and her wallet and cellphone also inside.

On Friday, Highland County Sheriff Donald Barerra said law enforcement had located Bell unharmed.

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Barerra told the television station that Bell was not found in the community, which is about an hour east of metro Cincinnati. Since she is 18, her case could not be classified as a runaway, but Barerra said Bell left on her own volition “to start a new life.”

Police confirmed that Bell was with a “person of interest,” but the identity of that person has not been released.

In a statement, Bell’s family said they are grateful she is safe. The statement reads:

“We ask that the public and media respect our privacy during this difficult time while we are emotionally raw. We are just relieved to know Maddie is alive and not in physical danger.

“Thank you to every single person who looked for Maddie including Rescue 101 Search and Rescue, Texas Equusearch, the amazing members of our local community, and volunteers that came from other areas to search for our daughter.”

“Thank you to everyone who donated on Maddie’s behalf to assure we had reward money to offer for her safe return. Thank you to the law enforcement agencies and members for their hard work over the past 6 days, and for leaving no rock unturned.”

“Thanks to friends and family who have supported us during the most difficult time of our lives. Every single effort to find Maddie has touched us and we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”

Check back for updates.

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[Feature Photo: Maddie Bell/Handout]