Friends and strangers, young and old, gathered outside Southold High School Thursday afternoon to form a search party in the hopes of bringing missing Peconic teen Ashley Murray home safely.
The search party, which was organized by Brianne Catapano, founder of the Facebook page, "Ashley Come Home," canvassed the area with flyers in the hopes that someone might recognize the 16-year-old, who went missing Monday.
Ashley, according to her mother, Charlotte Murray, left a suicide note.
As the crowd of approximately 50 volunteers gathered, Catapano said she had been told by Southold Town police that they were not able to do a traditional search, because the investigation is ongoing and such a search might
"We have to let the police do their work," Catapano said. Handing out flyers, she added that volunteers should distribute them around Southold, Greenport, the East End, or anywhere that might help. "We just want to spread the word," she said. "We want to make sure her face is known."
Catapano, who has been friends with Ashley for four years, said the days since she went missing Monday have been long; she has not been sleeping and instead, created the Facebook page, which, since it began Monday night, has already been seen by over 700,000 individuals as communities near and far rallied to help.
Rather than focusing on the uncertainty, Catapano said she is channeling all her energy into helping to find her friend. "I feel she's still out there and we will find her," she said.
Some traveled long distances to help. One woman named Pat, who declined to give her last name, said she came from Massapequa to lend a hand. When asked why, she said, "It was her story," she said.
Describing her friend, Catapano said Ashley is a "bubbly" teen with "light in her heart."
Friends Cora Small, 14, and Alexa Palumbo 15, said they were compelled to join the search.
"She has always been such a nice person," Small said. "When I met her, I'd had trouble fitting in, and she always talked to me. This is crushing me."
Added Palumbo, "Ashley is genuine. She just accepts you."
Both teens said they could sense Ashley's unhappiness through her recent status updates. "I had no idea it was this bad," Small said.
Ashley's best friend, Kristen Brophy, 15, attended the gathering with her mother, Margaret Brophy.
While she said she knew her friend had been upset, Kristen said, "I didn't think she was going to run away like this."
Margaret Brophy said Ashley was "at our house all the time."
If she could say anything to Ashley, Brophy said, she would tell the girl she loves like another daughter, "Mama loves you."
Brophy said Ashley confided in her often. "She knows she can come to me," she said. "Please come home," Brophy added, tears streaming down her face. "We love you. Ashley is a member of our family."
Holding a handful of flyers, friend Karine Rose said, "I really want to help find her."
And, Alexis Wachtel added, "I want to help find her but even if i is the worst scenario, I think the family has the right to know instead of wondering 'what if' forever," she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Southold Town police issued a missing person update on Ashley.
The release stated that police are continuing to search for Ashley ,who was last seen at about 8 a.m.. on Monday at her Spring Lane home in Peconic.
Ashley is described as a white female, approximately 5'4" tall, weighing about 140 lbs. She has brown to redish brown hair, blue eyes and has a scar on her right wrist.
Ashley wears hearing aids in both ears, the release said. She was last seen wearing a black and gray hooded sweatshirt, red sweatpants and black boots.
Southold police said they have received dozens of tips from the public and are currently following up on a number of leads.
The investigation is being conducted with the assistance of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, several other East End police departments, as well as Suffolk County and New York State Law Enforcement Agencies.
A Missing Person Alert, which includes photographs of Ashley can be viewed on the town website by clicking here.
Investigators are encouraging anyone with any information about the whereabouts of Ashley Murray to contact the Southold Town Police Department at (631)765-2600. All calls will be kept confidential and any assistance is appreciated.
Murray, said her daughter left a suicide note, which claimed she was upset with the world, mentioning a "watery grave" and a stranger "taking her to a deep abyss."
Murray said her daughter had been posting dark Facebook status updates, saying that she was "no longer afraid," and "was just going to do it."
RELATED: Peconic Teen Still Missing; Search Continues
On Thursday morning, Murray said there had still been no word from her daughter, who left without important medication for anemia.
Murray said her daughter's last text, to another girl, was sent from Southold and also mentioned suicide.
When asked what she would say to her friend, if she could, Catapano said, "We all miss you, Ashley. We want you to come home." And, she added, "I'm going to do everything I can to find you."
As to where Ashley might be, Catapano responded, "I have no clue. She could be anywhere."