SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — An elderly woman with severe memory loss was reunited with her three children Saturday after disappearing more than a decade ago.
Kayannette Gabrielle was born and raised in Colorado, but was living in California when her children reported her missing in 2006.
“We lost our mother and at some point she lost who she was, as well,” said her son, Brett Hanlon.
Her name and information were placed in a database as detectives worked the case.
Unable to remember her own name, Gabrielle ended up sleeping at a library in Santa Barbara.
“How do you go day to day not knowing who you are, with literally nothing but a few hazy memories of a life you may have lived?” Hanlon asked.
The Santa Barbara community cast a wide net around Gabrielle, who they knew as Mary.
After several trips to Cottage Hospital, staff tipped off local agencies about her vulnerable state.
Doctors Without Walls treated her on the streets. Police checked in on Gabrielle, kept her safe and gained her trust.
“To have that human interaction that human contact with people who don’t dismiss you because you haven’t brushed your teeth that morning or didn’t change your clothes for four days that means a lot to these people and that’s what we do for them,” said officer Keld Hove with the Santa Barbara Police Department.
The district attorney’s office found her shelter and services. A police court liaison, Mureen Brown, spent months trying to piece together her identity.
Then, two weeks ago, at PATH Homeless Shelter, something finally clicked and Gabrielle remembered her name.
“I Googled her and went to see if I could find missing person database and, sure enough, she showed up immediately,” Brown said.
On Tuesday, Gabrielle’s children got the call they’d been waiting for.
“Our detectives were able to reach out to family members who initially reported her missing and provided them with some really great news,” said Capt. Steven D. Katz with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
And Gabrielle is grateful for everyone who never gave up hope and refused to let her forget who she was.
“I thank all the incredible people that were my guardians my providers, they did so much for me emotionally, mentally, physically. … They lifted my hearts and they always will and they gave me their hearts. I always felt safe with them,” Gabrielle said.
“This is a story about an entire community keeping this woman safe, taking care of her, not giving up hope and at the end of it we have a miracle. It doesn’t happen that often,” KEYT in Santa Barbara quoted Brown as saying.
“The family is still putting all the pieces of the puzzle together and Gabrielle’s children said they are anxious to share a decade’s worth of stories with each other,” the sheriff’s office stated on Facebook.
Gabrielle is expected to come to live with her daughter Colette in Colorado, where she was born and raised, KEYT reported.
She will be reunited with her 91-year-old father, according to KEYT.