A happy ending for the case of missing Lanark woman
For more than three days, 70-year-old Michelle Rae "Mickey" Majerus wandered through the woods just outside her Lanark Village home, clad only in slip-on shoes, Capri pants and a t-shirt.
Gone was the tan ball cap she had stuck on her head when she left her Oak Street home sometime around noon on Monday, Oct. 28 for a little walk around the neighborhood.
Gone too were the glasses she wore to enable her to see through her partial blindness.
"Mom said she had a baseball cap but she lost that within a half hour," said her son, Steve Majerus, 46, who traveled down from Austin, Minnesota, with wife Charlann, last week to help in the massive search for his mother.
"She is legally blind, she had her glasses, but lost those soon after the hat went," he said. "Once it gets a little bit dark, she can’t see.
"She hunkered down and hoped for the best," he said.
The three-day search led by Sheriff A.J. Smith’s department, prompted by a call made by Majerus’ next door neighbors, Judy and Dave Jones, after she was nowhere to be seen, was massive. Her telephone and her purse had been found inside her house, and while no signs of foul play were discovered, all scenarios were weighed in the swiftly evolving mystery.
Law enforcement agencies came out in force, including K-9 search dogs from Franklin Correctional Institution and from Scent Evidence K9, horses from the Bay County Sheriff Office’s Mounted Posse, drones from Florida State University, two helicopters, Florida Division of Forestry, a dive team from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Carrabelle Police Department, Carrabelle and Lanark Village firefighters, county emergency management, and CERT, using everything from all-terrain vehicles, to individual searchers to aerial and waterborne investigators.
"She actually heard the helicopter and tried waving at it, and tried to make her way to a clearing," said her son, as he sat with his mom at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, where she continues to recuperate from her rugged ordeal.
"They couldn’t see her," Majerus said. "They just didn’t see her."
He said his mom became disoriented after going outside, a combination of what doctors told him were early mild signs of dementia compounded by the hallucinatory effects of a kidney infection.
"She didn’t have a stroke, they don’t think she even has dementia," said Majerus. "People think it’s dementia but it’s just a urinary tract infection."
He said his mom at times showed tendencies to be forgetful, or to see things that weren’t there or think people were watching her, but was usually pretty together, except for diminishing eyesight.
"For 70 she’s in pretty good physical condition," he said. "She can get around."
Her days in the woods, with no food or water, speak highly of her physical condition.
"She said she went for a short walk around the block, got off the road and got turned around," Majerus said. "And the next thing she knows she was lost and was trying to find her way home, to safety.
"She had started walking and had a delusion, and then when the delusion ended and she came to, she’s way in the middle of nowhere, thinking ‘Where the hell am I?’" he said. "She knew she had to keep moving and try to find a way out and hopefully someone would help her.
"She just kept walking, and a trail would go this way, a trail would go that way," he said. "She slept in hunting shacks, duck blinds that had been blown down, and on the ground. She slept on the ground one night.
"She said it rained and she was soaking wet at times. She would shiver herself to sleep," he said. "Her clothes were soaking wet when she was found. She was absolutely frozen.
"A few times out there, she just wanted to die," Majerus told her son. "Her body would cramp up, she’d cramp so bad it was hard for her to get back up."
Cold, dehydrated, wet and hungry, Majerus emerged from the woods on Halloween evening, and at about 7 p.m. while walking along Lake Morality Road, was picked up by Shawn Chisholm, of Eastpoint, a Duke Energy worker and volunteer firefighter, who was getting off duty.
"Even after all that I had a thought ‘Should I get in a car with a stranger?’" Majerus told her son. "I said ‘Mom, at that point you take the damn ride.’"
All Chisholm had to offer Majerus was a jar with a pickle in it, but she gladly took it.
"She ate the pickle and drank all the juice," Majerus said. "She told me ‘Oh, was that great!"
Transported by ambulance to TMH, she needed medical attention but was in good spirits. By Monday, she was back on the mend, enjoying meals of meat loaf and potatoes, and an occasional slice of cake.
A longtime divorcee, Majerus came down to Lanark 24 years ago, to take care of her mother, Dorothy Amendolar, who passed away in 2009.
She has a twin brother Michael Amendolar back in Red Wing, Minnesota, and in addition to her son Steve, has a daughter Christine Jakeman in Texas, and three grandchildren, Carson Jakeman and Hunter and Haily Majerus.
They are all of course delighted their mom and grandmother was found safely, and after talks with the doctors, are confident she’ll be able to return to live at home after about two weeks in physical rehab.
Majerus said the doctor advised him that with a home health aide, who makes regular checks, and with loving neighbors like the Jones’s who take her for groceries and other needs, she should do fine.
"I questioned it and I talked to the doctor, and he said she’s fine as long as she’s not hallucinating, and that should subside," Majerus said.
In addition, he and his wife plan to move down here by the end of the year in a house they are building nearby mom.
"She is just ecstatic she was found," Majerus said.