Connie McCallister Found Alive in Mexico; Wisconsin Woman Missing Since 2004

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Connie McCallister, a Wausau, Wisconsin woman who was 16 when she disappeared more than nine years ago, has been found living in Mexico.

Sources say she could return home as early as Thanksgiving.

McCallister, now 25, disappeared with her then 22-year-old boyfriend on August 15, 2004, when she was an honor-roll student at Athens High School.

Her aunt, Florence Volzka, said the boyfriend drugged her to get her to Mexico, and that at one point, she was badly beaten and treated at a hospital.

Someone helped her get a new identity, she added.

McCallister got involved with a man who abused her, Volzka said, then found a good man whom she ended up marrying. She now has three young daughters.

She escaped her initial captor/abuser, sources believe, but said since McCallister didn't know Spanish, it was hard for her to contact family in Wisconsin.

A church missionary recently met McCallister, learned of her plight and contacted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children this summer.

Wausau Police Capt. Greg Hagenbucher confirmed it is McCallister, who "did ask for help in getting home, but she won't come back without her children."

He did not immediately offer an update on the then-boyfriend, who is also wanted on charges of first-degree sexual assault involving an unrelated victim.

A group of volunteers at Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Athens, Wisc., is currently raising money to bring McCallister and her kids home.

"We want to use this as an example for families with missing relatives to never give up hope," Judy Weise, a family friend and church administrator said.

"There's always a chance their loved one could come home. Don't ever give up hope."

Officials with the U.S. Consulate are working with McCallister to gather the required documents and ID records necessary for McCallister to return.

McCallister is petitioning the court so her husband can join her in the U.S.

Her aunt, Volzka said they will live with her and then move to another nearby when she back on her feet. She hopes to have her home by Thanksgiving.

"She's excited and she's cautious and she knows it's going to be whole new world again and she's afraid," Volzka said. "There are a lot of adjustments."

McCallister's mother, Cindy McCallister, now lives in Florida.

"I never gave up any hope of her," Volzka, 56, of Medford, said by phone. "I always thought she would find a way home. She is very close knit with the family."

Volzka added that she first spoke with her in September through Skype and she looks the same, but with longer hair. "I cried for an hour," she said.