The former Modesto school teacher who went missing nearly three weeks ago in Merced County was found alive Friday morning, authorities said.
Jamie Tull, 33, was discovered in a field about a half-mile east of where she crashed her vehicle off East Childs Avenue just past South Cunningham Road, according to Merced County Sheriff’s Department officials.
She apparently had been avoiding searchers in the area since she disappeared on July 17, according to Sheriff Vern Warnke.
He said Tull was found by two ranchers and a volunteer working with the search party her father organized.
Tull, who family says suffers from bipolar disorder, was last heard from after she crashed her vehicle. The Riverbank resident was on the phone with her husband, Apollo Tull, at the time.
She had called him in tears, saying, “I’m not going to see you again.”
Warnke said Tull told investigators Friday that she didn’t want to be found. She told investigators she hid in a water tank for many days. She asked investigators to leave her some food and water and to “go away,” Warnke said.
He said Tull had good vital signs but suffered from extreme exhaustion and sunburn. She was transported to the burn unit at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Investigators said she had been out wandering when searchers found her near a fence. Her personal belongings were discovered near the water tank, which led to a cattle trough.
During the 17 days since she went missing, Tull only ate two grasshoppers and a fly, she told investigators.
Warnke said she speculated Friday might have been her last day to live.
“Evidently, she’s got some issues emotionally as to why she didn’t want to be found,” Warnke said. “We’ll let the family work through that.”
The area Tull was found is private property beyond any paved roads. Warnke said coyotes and mountain lions are known to frequent the area.
“We want to find out the rest of the story,” he said.
Warnke said the reason Tull wasn’t found sooner – despite conducting ground and air searches, the use of dogs and the help of the California Highway Patrol – is because Tull was hiding from searchers.
Reached by telephone Friday morning minutes after the news, Tull’s mother, Sandy Devenport, choked back tears, saying she was “barely alive” and had no further comment.
Since Tull’s disappearance, her family had been working feverishly to find her.
They set up a website, www.helpfindjamie.com, and offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.
Meanwhile, sheriff’s department detectives were fielding tips from the public. Over the last two weeks, they said they had received no credible information regarding her whereabouts. There were unattributed media reports that she had been spotted in Monterey County and the surrounding areas.
Early on, family members said she might have been in Yosemite National Park.
Detectives continued to treat the case as a voluntary, at-risk missing adult case.
Early on, husband Apollo Tull and Jamie’s mother, Sandy Devenport, spoke to The Bee about the difficulties Jamie was having.
They said Jamie Tull had been struggling over the past several months after she decided to go off her medication. They said she was convinced to go off her meds by counselors.
Apollo Tull admitted that he and Jamie Tull had been having marital troubles. According to Stanislaus County Superior Court documents, she petitioned for divorce on June 23.
However, both Apollo Tull and Devenport said she told them she had changed her mind, and that she wanted to make the marriage work.
Both said she left Woodrow Elementary School in Modesto’s Sylvan Union School District after Apollo Tull said she got “her dream job” teaching at an elementary school in Riverbank. However, he said Tull recently resigned from that position.
We’ll have more on this breaking story as information becomes available.
Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477