Missing elderly pair found safe in Jackson

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 3, 2009

Two residents of Heritage House Retirement Center on Wisconsin Avenue reported missing early Thursday morning were found safe Thursday afternoon in Jackson.

David P. Waddell and Ann Penley, both 78, were found at 12:30 p.m. at a U.S. 80 auto repair shop. They had last been seen at 5 p.m. Wednesday during dinner at Heritage House, which offers several tiers of care ranging from individual apartments where residents have their own keys and many have their own vehicles to long-term care with 24-hour monitoring.

Waddell and Penley, both reported to be Alzheimer’s patients, apparently left in Waddell’s 2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

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Reports are they were stopped by a Vicksburg police officer at 1 a.m. Thursday on U.S. 61 South and both had asked the officer for directions. Police could not give a reason for the traffic stop.

More than an hour later, the couple was stopped again driving west on Interstate 20 East in Madison Parish, La., by a parish deputy. Waddell was cited and was told to drive correctly on the eastbound lane.

When they were discovered missing, a report was filed with police and a National Crime Information Center alert was issued. But by 8 a.m. Thursday they were in the parking lot of Eugene Frazier Sr.’s auto repair shop, where he found them when arriving for work.

Frazier said it appeared their vehicle had run out of gas. He said he began asking them questions when he noticed both appeared to be disoriented and their vehicle license plate was from Warren County.

“I kept on talking to them, but they couldn’t tell me anything,” said Frazier, who chatted with them while offering refreshments in his shop. “They acted like nothing was wrong with them,” he said, “but they just couldn’t tell me where they were from.”

He also said the couple seemed to be in good spirits while he was talking to them and even referred to them as being “cool as a cucumber.”

He called 911 around 10 a.m. after not being able to get any information; however, it was not until a third call to 911 that a Jackson police officer arrived on scene around noon.

“I’m so glad nothing had happened to them,” Frazier said.

Frazier’s Auto Repair shop is located at 4655 U.S. 80 West, one mile west of the Metro Center shopping mall.

Both were returned to Vicksburg by family members.

“We are thankful they are found and are safe,” said Tracey Waddell, Waddell’s daughter-in-law. “Our main concern was that no one was injured.”

Penley’s son, Vicksburg attorney James “Buck” Penley, said he was also relieved. “I’m glad she’s back safe and sound,” he said. “We appreciate all the law enforcement who helped.”

Heritage House did not return phone calls.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com