LORAIN – Katherine McDougal stood on her porch on Eighth Street in tears, as rescue workers searched for her 6-year-old daughter Gracie.
Just as she thought the worst could’ve happened, a Lorain police officer called her over to get in his cruiser, officers told her they might have found Gracie.
The cruiser sped down the street to a house on the corner of Eighth Street and Washington Avenue. The officers’ information was correct and Gracie was found safe and sound.
“I don’t even know how to explain it, I don’t even know how to feel right now,” Katherine said. “I just want to take her home and make sure she’s OK.”
The only signs of injury appeared to be mosquito bites, as the girl was found just as she was described, wearing a purple dress with pink flowers on it over a diaper without any shoes.
Gracie, a first grader at Garfield Elementary, was reported missing around 8:30 a.m. She has autism and is non-verbal, and she’d walked away before. The family installed an alarm system, and makes sure she sleeps in the same room as another family member. Katherine checked on Gracie around 2:30 a.m. and found her asleep in her brother’s bedroom. Six hours later, when she checked on the five children sleeping in the home, she couldn’t find Gracie and called 911. Katherine believes Gracie might have left the house through an open window on the first floor.
A search started shortly after, involving Katherine’s friends and family as well as Lorain Police, Lorain Fire, Lorain Marine Patrol and the rest of the city workers available.
Capt. Roger Watkins said the situation could have gotten worse than it did. Police officers were told Gracie liked the water, officers were searching nearby pools and beaches for the child.
“It’s hot and that’s a concern, but her falling into the water was a bigger concern,” he said.
Rebecca Lester of Lorain was at work cleaning the home at the corner of Eighth and Washington. She found Gracie, whom she recognized from law enforcement alerts, sleeping in a closet on the third floor of the house, much to her amazement.
Katherine said police strongly suggested that she do something to monitor her child, but she said Gracie usually hates wearing tracking bracelets and would take them off. She’d like to try something but worries it won’t be enough. Katherine said she was grateful for the help from the entire community to find her daughter.