Missing student found

Tearful Celebration sweeps search party’s hotel

Hank Long

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Madison sophomore who went missing Saturday was found in good condition Wednesday afternoon.

Madison Assistant Chief of Police Noble Wray said police located Audrey Seiler, of Rockford, Minn., after a witness called, mentioning a female who appeared to need help.

Officers responded to the area, which was less than a mile from where her family members and friends were staying, and found a woman who they later identified as Seiler.

Upon hearing the news, the search party’s headquarters at a local hotel erupted into celebration.

“It’s like someone came back to life,” said Sue Francis, a Seiler family friend who received the news at about 1 p.m.

“This is the most amazing, awesome thing,” she said, as dozens surrounding the scene embraced with joyful tears.

“I felt like I’d won the lottery,” said Rick Martinson, a Rockford neighbor of the Seilers, who earlier Wednesday led the volunteer search party that covered a 1,300-acre wetland near the university’s campus.

Seiler, 20, went missing Saturday when surveillance cameras at her apartment complex captured her leaving the building at 2:30 a.m.

“We are so grateful that Audrey is back safe with us,” said Keith Seiler, Audrey Seiler’s father, on Wednesday evening at a press conference in the Madison hospital where she was being treated.

“Through the course of the last few days, we kept telling you that we were confident that Audrey would return,” Keith Seiler said.

Martinson said Audrey Seiler’s family and friends never gave up hope because they knew her spirit.

“Audrey is a fighter,” Martinson said. “She is very determined and intelligent, and we knew she would not give up.”

University of Minnesota sophomore Stephanie Jones, who said she has been friends with Audrey Seiler since they were 4 years old, said she was excited to tear down the hundreds of missing person posters she and friends put up.

“We were at lunch when we heard Audrey was safe and we drove here as fast as we could,” she said.

David Fischer, 23, who said his younger brother has been dating Audrey Seiler for four years, said her family and friends were hopeful she would return.

“Audrey is like a sister to me, and we are so happy to have her back,” he said.

Except for being cold and having muscle aches from “being confined,” Audrey Seiler was in remarkable condition, said Dr. Phillip Schultz of St. Mary’s Hospital, where Seiler was being treated.

“She is smiling a lot, and we are very happy that she is doing as well as she is,” Schultz said.

While family and friends prepared to return home Wednesday night, the suspect involved in Audrey Seiler’s disappearance was still at large, police said.

After finding her, Wray said, police immediately secured the perimeter of the area and began searching for the suspect.

During the next few hours, a crew of more than 150 law enforcement officials – some heavily armed – used police dogs, a helicopter and ground patrol to comb the area surrounding nearby Lake Monona.

Police contained Seiler’s friends and family members at the hotel where they were celebrating her safe return while police searched the area, citing safety concerns.

Police officers secured the hotel and other areas near the perimeter of the lake until about 4 p.m. and then refocused the search to the area where she was found.

Police and fire department officials called off the tactical search for the potential suspect about 7 p.m., but said they are focused on the investigation phase of the case.

They described the suspect as a white male, approximately 6 feet tall, in his late 20s to early 30s and last seen wearing a black sweatshirt, jeans and a black cap.

The suspect is believed to be armed with a gun and a knife, police said.

Police refused to comment any further on the investigation and urged anyone with information about the case to call Madison police’s anonymous tip line at (608) 266-4000.