Community helps family find missing daughter

Thursday, April 23, 2009 | 10:58 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Jeffrey and Rachel Friel would like to extend their thanks to the community for bringing home their 15-year-old daughter, Ashley Friel.

She is safe now.

Ashley was reunited with her family at 5 p.m. Wednesday after television newscasts carried the story. Jeffrey Friel received a call from his daughter asking him to meet her at the Columbia Public Library.

"She doesn't have a cell phone," Jeffrey Friel said. "I don't know whose phone she called from." When asked further questions about Ashley, Jeffrey Friel said he preferred not to talk about the details.

The Friels' thanks goes out to the community. "It's just amazing, with all the love and support ... from people we know and people we don't know," Jeffrey Friel said.

Community members extended help to the Friels, many by spreading the word online. They used social networking sites like Twitter, created blogs and forwarded mass e-mails. Most posts are direct copies of the 10-line e-mail sent out on Tuesday to people within the Registrar’s Office at MU.

It spread rapidly from there.

“We’ve seen information posted about her on band Web sites nationwide,” Jeffrey Friel said.

"From what my wife and I have seen across the community, we’re realizing a lot of our friends have connections to all these places and they are willing to do little things to help,” Jeffrey Friel said.

Printing companies posted fliers of Ashley in their business windows. Jeffrey Friel’s former employer, Steve Baumgartner, of Image Technologies of Missouri, did what he thought was necessary to help reunite the family.

"This was like an Amber Alert on a mini scale," said Baumgartner, who co-owns the business with his wife, Lynda. "We're going to do our part."

During the search, it was reported that Ashley was seen near Business Loop 70 East.

Jeffrey Friel went to Baumgartner with a small black-and-white print with not much detail asking if Baumgartner could give them to the workers.

"I said, Jeffrey, you need color man. You need them big," Baumgartner said. "You need to see the eyes, you need to see the face."

Baumgartner then offered to print 50 large, color fliers for free to put around Columbia to spread the word about Ashley as well as giving some to employees who drive around town.

"This type of thing, the trauma is huge," he said. "It could have been anybody, we would have helped."

Jeffrey Friel was filled with thanks, which he expressed through a mass e-mail to everyone who helped in the search.

"We would like to thank everyone for their prayers and assistance," he wrote. "Our faith in humanity was restored by your wealth of love and friendship. Please pass along our gratitude to all of your friends and family that may have helped in our search."

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Eric Cox April 23, 2009 | 12:42 p.m.

I'm glad this ended this well. It's nice to see people come together to help one another.

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