NORTH CONWAY, N.H. (AP) — A dark-haired, dark-eyed girl peers out from a letter-sized poster taped to the doors of businesses lining Main Street in the tourist town of North Conway.
Missing, it says.
What happened to 15-year-old Abigail Hernandez, who disappeared Oct. 9, has people on edge in the town of 2,300 residents in Mount Washington Valley. There are shades of the still-unsolved killing of another young girl from rural New Hampshire two years ago: 11-year-old Celina Cass disappeared from her West Stewartstown home, and her body was recovered a week later in the Connecticut River.
Abigail left Kennett High School at 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and walked the same route she usually did toward the town house she shares with her mother about 2 miles away. When her mother returned home that evening, Abigail was missing and she hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
“It’s just that in places like a small town, it hits close to home,” said Kelly Canfield as she worked the counter at Zeb’s General Store, where plate-sized lollipops at the register catch the eye of younger visitors. Canfield has three children — a 10-year-old daughter and two sons, 13 and 6 — and has always felt safe. “You see it happening in other places, but you don’t expect it here. It’s scary.”
A week after she disappeared, police again fanned out through the rugged, heavily forested terrain that surrounds North Conway. They’ve already covered thousands of acres with no sign of Abigail.
“As you can imagine,” said Conway Police Chief Edward Wagner, “these are not flatlands. There are a lot of smaller mountains but still mountains. There are quarries, downed trees, wetlands. It’s very difficult for them to do their jobs.”
Police have also searched by air and used boats on the Saco River and Pudding Pond and found nothing.