YORK – After nearly a week of searching, Jadey Jenkins, 30, of Omaha was found by law enforcement west of McCool Junction late Tuesday night.
York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka and York County Sheriff Captain Josh Gillespie said she was found in a ditch along Road I, between Roads 4 and 5, at approximately 11 p.m.
“She was incoherent and clearly showed signs that she had been out in the elements for nearly a week. She was badly disheveled, but she was alive and we are so incredibly grateful,” Sheriff Vrbka said.
Jenkins was taken to York General Hospital for a medical evaluation and then later placed in emergency protective care, the sheriff said.
This situation began last Wednesday, July 8, when the sheriff’s department received a call from a Henderson man who reported that a car was parked along Interstate 80, 1 ½ miles west of the Bradshaw exit. The man said there was possibly a person sitting alongside the vehicle.
When a deputy arrived to check out the vehicle, he found it abandoned. No one was there.
Inside the vehicle, the deputy found the belongings of the car’s driver, who was Jenkins. That included her cell phone, wallet, credit cards and shoes, the sheriff said. The keys were also in the vehicle.
Using the information they had, the sheriff’s department developed contact information and called family members of Jenkins’. No one had seen her since Wednesday morning. He said he was told by the woman’s fiancé that she had left Omaha about 9-9:30 a.m., on Wednesday – it was thought she was traveling to Colorado or California where family members live.
Then on Thursday, July 9, the sheriff’s department received a call from a local farmer who said he saw a person, on foot, approximately ½ mile north of the Bradshaw exit on Road H. Sheriff Vrbka said that when the farmer called out to the person, the person ran into the cornfield.
The sheriff said the farmer saw the person at a distance and could not confirm whether or not it was a woman or a man.
“That’s when we started actively looking in that area, because it was in close proximity to where the woman’s car had been left along Interstate 80,” Sheriff Vrbka explained.
The Nebraska State Patrol assisted with the search in that area, using air, vehicle and foot patrol.
Volunteers scoured the area southeast of Bradshaw. This went on nearly constantly throughout the weekend, Monday and Tuesday.
No one was found.
“I was getting reading to contact the FBI,” Sheriff Vrbka said, “because at that point, we wondered if she had been picked up by someone on the interstate.”
Then, Tuesday evening, July 14, rural residents in the area of Road I, between Roads 4 and 5, reported that they definitely had seen her. They immediately called the sheriff’s department, who in turn also dispatched the McCool Junction and York Fire Departments to help with the search.
Darkness arrived and they still hadn’t found her.
“I was worried she was going to spend another night out in the elements,” Sheriff Vrbka said. “Think of what she had been through. She had been out there this whole time, walking, with no shoes on, through two major thunderstorms, with such heat during the day. The corn is eight, nine feet tall now. I can’t even imagine. We think she probably drank water from irrigation wells, in order to stay alive. We just don’t know.”
About 11 p.m., Tuesday night, Captain Gillespie radioed his fellow officers, saying they should check culverts.
“I went to check a culvert, and as I swung my flashlight around to shine inside the culvert, I was stunned to see her lying there in the ditch,” Captain Gillespie said. “It was an incredible moment, to have finally found her. I am just so glad she is OK.”
Sheriff Vrbka said he immediately contacted Jenkins’ mother in Oregon and her sister in California.
“Her mother is on her way to Nebraska now,” Sheriff Vrbka said. “We are happy to report that her daughter is now safe.
“In all my years of law enforcement, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” the sheriff continued. “We have had fugitives out there, hiding maybe for a day or so, but never a situation like this where we’ve had someone missing for a week. The community has been extremely helpful and we thank God for all the volunteers and the fire departments and everyone who helped. Thank you so much for showing up, for this woman.”
Vrbka and Gillespie want to thank all who helped in the search – with a special thanks to the Aviation Support Division of the Nebraska State Patrol; Rick Boardman; state patrol troopers; the Henderson Police Department; the firefighters of York, McCool, Waco, Bradshaw, Henderson and many other departments.
“We appreciate those who brought out drones and other search equipment,” they said. “Last and definitely not least, thanks to all who assisted including volunteers, farmers, and the members of the search teams from Fremont, Grand Island, and all of York County. We are proud to be part of a great community. You are heroes to us!”