As relief and joy blanketed the North Fork after news spread that missing Peconic teen Ashley Murray had returned home safely on Friday, the question of where she had been, during the time that she was missing, remained.
On Saturday, Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said he believed Ashley left of her own accord and was likely staying with friends.
"I don't have any reason to believe that Ashley did not leave voluntarily and she most likely was with friends during this period," Flatley said. "I don't believe she was ever far from the East End."
Flatley said Ashley was brought to the police station by a friend Friday at 3:15 p.m. but could not comment on whether she had been staying with that friend because the matter was still under active investigation.
"I can't comment really on the whereabouts of Ashley because we are still investigating the circumstances surrounding her disappearance and the reason for it," Flatley said Friday. "I am elated obviously that Ashley is back and that she is safe and also glad that we can scale down our investigation on this case and the resources that we have employed may be released."
Flatley said Ashley was interviewed in police headquarters for appoximately an hour and a half Friday.
On Friday, the community rejoiced when, Ashley, who has had a community rallying for her return, returned home safely.
"Ashley walked into the police department on her own," her brother Jaime Cradehl said Friday afternoon. "I don't have anything other than that, but that's news enough. She's safe. Ashley came back."
According to Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, Ashley was escorted to Southold Town police headquarters with a friend at 3:15 p.m. on Friday and was said to be in good physical health and under the supervision of police personnel.
Ashley was reported missing on Feb. 25 by family members, launching an extensive search and investigation into her whereabouts, police said.
Police said Ashley will be transported to an area hospital for evaluation due to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
Since she disappeared, leaving a suicide note and disappearing without her medication or warm clothes, a community has come together in an outpouring of support and love to bring Ashley home safely.
From the moment her anguished mother, Charlotte Murray, described the fear during dark nights when she did not know where her daughter could be, friends and concerned residents from near and far rallied, creating Facebook pages, handing out flyers, and sending messages of support.
In Southold Town, the school district and local elected officials pledged their support in doing whatever necessary to bring Ashley home.
As days passed without a word, speculation spread as to what could have happened to the missing teen.
Since the moment she went missing, the Southold Town police department launched a widespread investigation that was aided by outside agencies including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Suffolk County police department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The Southold Police Department conducted scores of searches, utilizing aviation, K-9 and marine units, pursued investigative leads and interviewed numerous individuals.
Most recently, police investigated a new Facebook page that had been set up using the name Ashley Murray on Thursday.
Ashley returned home one day after her mother sent out a heartfelt plea through Patch and on Facebook, asking her daughter to let her know that she was safe.
"I love you, Ashley," the letter said.