By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“We would like to just hear from her, just stay in contact,” said Fred Garrett, father of 23-year-old Lauryn Garrett, who had been reported missing since May 1.
“We found her. It's up to her now to decide what she wants to do,” he added.
“We're not planning on going over to Shoreline to drag her home.”
Before being spotted in Shoreline, north of Seattle, last week, the last time the 2009 Sequim High School graduate had been seen was May 1.
Her image was on surveillance footage from the Port Townsend Safeway, where she shopped after talking with her father on a borrowed cellphone at the nearby Haines Place Park and Ride.
She had arrived a day earlier than her father expected from an inpatient drug treatment facility in Sedro-Woolley.
She had checked into the facility 60 days prior for heroin addiction treatment, her father said.
Her father had thought she would take a bus to Sequim.
Instead, it was the last time he talked with her.
Police formed a task force to search for her. Family members searched in Port Townsend and elsewhere, including Shoreline, where she had lived for a time, but found no sign of her.
A chance encounter with a family friend at a Shoreline Fred Meyer on Tuesday changed that.
Lauryn Garrett walked into the Fred Meyer at about 5 p.m. Tuesday and tried to return merchandise without a receipt and with identification that was not hers, said Officer Patrick Fudally, Port Townsend police spokesman.
The Fred Meyer clerk was a friend of Lauryn Garrett's uncle and recognized her, Fudally said.
Police showed Fred Meyer surveillance footage to Fred Garrett, who confirmed it was his daughter.
“As far as we can tell, she's OK,” Fred Garrett said Friday.
The clerk told the woman she should contact her family, and Lauryn Garrett, who appeared to be alone, told her she had.
Her father, stepfather Bret Christianson and mother Eleana Christianson have said that's not the case.
Not 'in duress,' 'danger'
The clerk refused to allow the return of the merchandise without proper identification; she said she would get it, left — leaving the merchandise and identification behind — and did not return, Fudally said.
Saying she did not appear “in duress or any danger,” police said they no longer consider her a missing person and planned to disband the multi-agency task force investigation into her whereabouts.
Lauryn Garrett's family fears she has fallen victim to a demon that her father and stepfather said she has struggled with for the past three years:
Bret Christianson said his stepdaughter, whom he had raised with her mother since she was 3, first encountered the drug about three years ago.
“This town is inundated with heroin. I mean, it's all around us,” he said.
About five months ago, she had moved to her father's home in another area of Sequim.
Fred Garrett echoed Christianson's sentiment.
“Our Peninsula has an epidemic on its hands, and everybody needs to know what's going on,” Fred Garrett said.
“These are good kids. Lauryn is a good kid. Lauryn never got in trouble at school ever.”
Christianson said he and Lauryn's mother and father plan to meet with a counselor to talk how about how best to support his stepdaughter.
“I just want her back, and it's going to be a long road, but I want her back,” said Bret Christianson.
Amid these fears, Lauryn's family has also expressed disappointment with how Port Townsend police, the lead agency on her search, handled her disappearance.
“I don't think they put a high priority on it, as high as it should have,” Fred Garrett said.
Bret Christianson said he feels police did not sufficiently follow up on all the leads Lauryn's family had given them.
Fudally said the police and the task force investigated Lauryn's disappearance the best they could with the resources that were available.
“We don't have the resources to have our entire department focusing on one case. Our community wouldn't appreciate that,” he said.
“We have to balance one case with the needs of the community.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at email@example.com.