Mesa police locate missing 8-year-old Leilani Miller

Posted at 6:50 PM, Sep 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-30 13:19:02-04

Mesa police have located an 8-year-old girl after she went missing Friday afternoon.

Authorities say Leilani Miller had last been seen in the area of Stapley and University drives.

Sgt. Diana Williams with the Mesa Police Department said Miller was let out of school around 2:15 p.m. and was seen leaving Hawthorne Elementary School, which is unusual as she is normally picked up from school by a family member.

Authorities performed two "reverse" 911 calls to landlines and cell phones in the area asking for information.

Miller was located Saturday morning just before 7:30 a.m. and is safe, according to police. 

Det. Steve Berry with the Mesa Police Department said a team was heading out to retrace some steps and knock on neighbor doors nearby when they found Leilani wandering in the neighborhood streets by herself. 

Det. Berry said she was "disheveled," but in good condition. 

"Of course they stopped and identified themselves," Det. Berry explained. "Leilani identified herself to them and we had her back! So, that is a great, great outcome this morning." 

She was found approximately a mile from Hawthorne Elementary School near Stapley and University. But, Det. Berry was unsure of the exact location.

"This little girl is 8-years-old. She's been out all night. At the point, we don't know where she slept or anything like that," Det. Berry explained. "So, we want to be sure that she's hydrated; she's got some food - all of those things... be sure that her welfare is good and then we'll delve into the other questions and hopefully find out a little bit more." 

After an interview with Leilani, police learned that she and another female classmate had planned to take off after school to hang out.

The friend reportedly did not follow through with the plans and Leilani had proceeded on her own.

Police say Leilani walked to a location in the area of the school where she stayed until this morning. 

Approximately 125 law enforcement personnel were on scene for roughly 18 hours during this search and investigation. 

The command center has since been taken down at Hawthorne Elementary School.

Her family has also been notified.