Social worker helps find missing girl

Anna Kaplan
Statesville Record and Landmark
Sunday, March 19, 2006

Etolia Terry knows how to tell when something’s wrong with her young
clients.

As an outreach worker with homeless children, she is required, by law, to
alert the police if she suspects abuse or neglect.

But earlier this month, when she thought something might be wrong with
12-year-old Ashley Bushue, she took an extra step by visiting the
National Missing and Exploited Children Web site.

The girl had been reported abducted from Tennessee on March 3.

With Terry’s help, Statesville police found Ashley on March 7.

The girl was back with her family the same night.

Terry will receive a certificate of appreciation from the Statesville
City Council tonight for her help in locating the missing girl.

“Only through the alert action of Ms. Terry was this action able to take
place,” said Statesville Police Chief Steve Hampton. “I can’t say enough
about her strong work ethic and her caring. She’s a big hero to us.”

“It’s an example of why Statesville is a great place to live,” added
Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh. “We have people like Ms. Terry who take
their responsibility as human beings seriously.”

The 12-year-old girl and Seth Mitchell, the 35-year-old man accused of
kidnapping her, had been staying at the Fifth Street Ministries shelter.

Terry met them while working there, but they had left the shelter on foot
by the time she called police.

The police located them behind Domino’s Pizza on East Broad Street a
couple of hours later, Hampton said.

This kind of involvement from community members is an essential tool for
police.

“There’s only a limited number of law enforcement out there. The people
in the community know what belongs and what doesn’t belong in that
community, because those folks are there every day,” Hampton said.

For Terry, it was all in a day’s work.

“What makes me feel the best is knowing how her parents must feel,” she
said. “I’m very happy about it, but I just see it as having done my job.”

Terry said she couldn’t talk about the details of the case because of the
confidentiality on which her clients rely.
“In order for people to talk to her, they have to have that trust,” said
Jim Harner, the clinical director for Partnership for Behavioral Health.

The Partnership runs Projects for Assistance in the Transition from
Homelessness, which Terry is a part of.

The ability to detect that something is off with a child boils down to a
gut feeling and experience in spotting details, according to Terry.

“Children aren’t as forthcoming as adults,” she said.

It was this gut feeling that led her to suspect the worst about young
Ashley’s situation.

“She had some interaction with Seth Mitchell and the young lady,” Hampton
said, “and their story just didn’t feel right.”

© 2006, Media General Inc.

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