LPS releases statements regarding missing girl

 By: Camila Orti


New details were released today on how a 7-year-old wandered from her elementary school.

Gracie Shafer, a first-grader with autism at Everett Elementary, caused quite the scare on Friday after walking away from school, going missing for more than five hours.

“This is something that doesn’t happen very often and that’s why we really want to commend the Everett staff because they jumped into action so quickly,” Lincoln Public Schools spokeswoman Jane Stavem said.

LPS officials say they think Gracie wandered off as students were filing back into the building after recess. She was one of about 90 kids under the supervision of three adults.

“We’re always as diligent as possible to the supervision that’s happening but we’re also moving a lot of kids from point A to point B as they come in,” Stavem said.

Although the entire playground area is surrounded by chain-link fence, there are several openings that Gracie may have wandered out of. It was a particularly pretty Christmas tree that police believe lured the girl to a house on 11th Street, which happened to be unlocked. She made herself right at home.

“I’d gotten home around 6:30 and noticed that my front door was wide open, and I walked up the stairs and looked inside and everything was just a mess,” Mikayla Ratliff said, “there was wrapping paper all over the place.”

Ratliff says Gracie unwrapped about 25 presents, decorated cookies and even tried to bake a cake (but never turned the oven on.)

“It kinda made it hard to be any kind of upset, it was just really adorable and we were just really happy that our door was unlocked and she had somewhere safe to be,” Ratliff said.

Volunteers found Gracie just before 5 p.m. outside near 11th and F streets. The staff at Everett says it was heartwarming to see the community pull together to find her.

“We had the mail carrier looking, Adam from DaVinci’s,” Everett principal Michelle Suarez said, “we’re so pleased that she was found safe and unharmed and in the end, that’s what matters.”

Ratliff says Gracie did end up taking a few of the presents she unwrapped, but everything has been returned. LPS says all procedures were followed properly.