YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Nation

Students Missing for 2 Weeks Found

The college couple were staying in a Florida hotel. Family members, who led a fevered search, are relieved but baffled by the disappearance.

August 10, 2003|From Associated Press

LOWELL, Mass. — Two college students who vanished from Cape Cod last month have been found safe in Florida, leaving family members relieved but baffled by the two-week mystery.

The family of 21-year-old Justin Gouveia of Lowell heard the news late Saturday morning as they were passing out leaflets in the area around Yarmouth, Mass., where the couple was last seen.

"We talked to him, we heard their voices, we told them we love them and we'll just wait for them to come back," Leanne Gouveia, Justin's mother, said at a news conference Saturday.

Gouveia and Danela Alfaro-Lopez, 19, of Dearborn, Mich., both Michigan State University students, were last seen July 26 leaving a bed and breakfast in Yarmouth. They were expected to join Gouveia's family in Maine the following day but never showed up.

The two were found Saturday morning at the InTown Suites, an Orlando-area hotel, according to Elise Camille, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office in Orange County, Fla.

Camille said an officer doing routine license plate checks in the hotel parking lot called in the couple's plate number.

Two hours later, when the car was confirmed as reported missing, police returned to the hotel, where they found the couple as they were leaving.

Camille said the two knew why they had been pulled over, and that they had not wanted to tell their parents they were going to Florida because they knew their parents wouldn't approve.

"They never used a cellphone or credit card. They used only cash," Camille said. "I don't know, maybe they didn't want to be found."

The couple had been in Florida for two weeks and were still in the hotel room Saturday afternoon, Camille said.

No one picked up the phone in the couple's room Saturday.

The disappearance of the students, widely described as responsible and reliable, gained national attention.

Relatives appeared on national television, and the Web portal Lycos, employer of Gouveia's grandmother, posted information about the couple on its site.

Family members seemed baffled by the disappearance. They said they did not know whether the couple had eloped.

"There had to be a good reason; granted, we don't know that right now," mother Leanne Gouveia said. "He's a very good kid, he's a young adult; we'll keep faith in him."

Maria Alfaro-Lopez, an assistant prosecutor in Wayne County, Mich., said her daughter had mentioned before she disappeared that she wanted to take some time off from school. She said she tried to discourage her daughter from doing that.

Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts and Michigan said the couple won't face charges, but Lowell Police Deputy Supervisor Kenneth Lavallee said they want to talk to the couple when they return.

"There's a feeling of relief and gratification, but there's also a sense of disappointment that both these young people would create a situation like this, put everybody through this ordeal," Lavallee said. "A lot of man hours, money, time has been spent on this; it's very disconcerting to us."

Los Angeles Times Articles