PORT TOWNSEND — Lauryn Garrett, a 23-year-old Sequim woman missing for five weeks, was in a Fred Meyer store in the King County city of Shoreline on Tuesday, trying to use another woman’s ID to return merchandise for cash, Port Townsend police said.
She was identified after a 1-in-a-million encounter — the clerk who waited on her had grown up with Lauryn in the Forks area.
Port Townsend detectives got surveillance footage from the store and shared it with her father, Fred Garrett, who confirmed it was her.
“Definitely her,” said an elated Fred Garrett on Thursday. “God bless living in a small town.”
Saying she did not appear “in duress or any danger,” police said they no long consider Garrett a missing person and canceled a task force investigation into her whereabouts.
She was last seen on May 1 in Port Townsend.
Fred Garrett said he was “absolutely relieved” but wasn’t sure what the family would do next.
“I’m very worried for her,” he said. “I’d like to make contact with her. I’m still concerned with her safety over there (in Shoreline).”
“Based on Lauryn’s confirmed identification by her father, the fact that she seems unwilling to contact family members, and there was no sign Lauryn was in duress or any danger, the Port Townsend Police in coordination with the task force members have determined Lauryn is no longer missing for the purpose of our investigation,” said Officer Patrick Fudally, Port Townsend police spokesman, in a statement.
“We would still encourage Lauryn to contact her family or law enforcement to ease her family’s concerns.”
Fudally said Garrett walked into the Fred Meyer in Shoreline, just north of Seattle, at about 5 p.m. Tuesday and tried to return merchandise without a receipt with the ID that was not hers.
He said the Fred Meyer clerk asked Lauryn, “Do you recognize me?” and after hearing she did, told her that her family members were looking for her and that she should phone them.
Garrett reportedly responded that she already had — but, Fudally noted, the family said they have had no contact with Lauryn since she went missing.
The clerk told Lauryn she would not accept the return as she needed Lauryn’s valid identification. Garrett responded that she would go get her ID, and left the store without the merchandise and ID that did not belong to her, and did not return.
The employee then called Fred Garrett’s brother, who in turn contacted Fred and law enforcement officials.
“The clerk reported Lauryn did not appear to be in any physical or mental duress,” Fudally said.
Once Port Townsend Police learned of Garrett’s appearance, Detective Jason Greenspane contacted the Fred Meyer loss prevention officer and was able to obtain surveillance photos of Garrett in the Shoreline store.
Upon review of the surveillance footage, Garrett appeared to be alone when entering the store and no one was seen with her leaving the store.
As for the identification Garrett tried using at Fred Meyer, Port Townsend police said that the owner had reported that her ID was either lost or stolen in April.
The person had not reported the loss of her identification to police but did report it missing to the state Department of Licensing, and she got a new ID.
She was encouraged to report the loss/theft of her identification to her local law enforcement agency (Seattle police), according to Fudally.
Lauryn Garrett is 5-feet, 7-inches tall and weighs between 120 and 130 pounds. She has brown hair and hazel eyes.
She has a tattoo of a bird behind her left ear and a tattoo of Washington state on her right wrist.
She was last seen on the North Olympic Peninsula on video surveillance footage at the Port Townsend Safeway as she purchased vodka and soda at about 8 p.m. May 1.
Just before she crossed the street to the Port Townsend Safeway, Garrett borrowed a cellphone from a man at the Haines Place Park and Ride to call her father.
She had arrived a day earlier than her father expected from Pioneer Center North, an inpatient drug treatment facility in Sedro-Woolley.
He got off the phone thinking she would catch a bus to Sequim from Port Townsend. No buses were running to Sequim that time of night.
The last day she was seen, a witness said she left two duffel bags at the park and ride.
Her mother — Eleana Christianson, also of Sequim — found one of the bags May 7 near a trail through nearby Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. The other bag has not been recovered.
Both the police and Garrett’s family had distributed flyers with her photos.
Her family had expanded the search beyond the Peninsula while not ruling out that she might still have been in Port Townsend.
Last week, they distributed 452 bagged lunches, 350 in Seattle and the remainder in Port Townsend, in places where the homeless congregate.
The lunch bags had pictures of Garrett and contact information.
A task force — which includes representatives of the Port Townsend Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the Poulsbo FBI office — was formed to look her her.
They had investigated leads in Shoreline, where Lauryn Garrett had lived from the end of 2012 to October 2013. She is a 2009 graduate of Sequim High School.