Family and law enforcement speak out after Emily Paul says she's safe

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Five years ago, a Southport teenager ran away from home.

Friends and family wondered where Emily Paul went, if she was safe and if they would ever hear from her again.

Now, officials with the Bay County Sheriff's office say Emily is safe and sound.

Emily Paul was 14 years old when she ran away in 2013.

A few weeks ago her family received letters from someone claiming to be Emily.

After investigators confirmed Emily sent the letters, she contacted the Sheriff's Office Tuesday.

Captain Jason Daffin, of the Bay County Sheriff's Office, said, "When I answered the phone it was a female voice, claiming to be Emily Paul. I asked the female on the phone if she could explain to me who the letters were sent to, and too, the contents of the letter."

Officials say the woman on the phone was able to explain the letters.

Daffin continued, "So, at that point, I felt pretty comfortable I was speaking with Emily."

Investigators passed along the information to Emily's family, who seemed to be relieved.

Melissa Parker, Emily's cousin said, "Knowing she's alive is a blessing like no other. We have spent so much time hoping and praying and dreaming and... you name it. Just knowing she's alive and she's safe and she's healthy is the most amazing news I can possibly imagine."

While Emily has only spoken to her family in letters, they hope to hear her voice again.

"I'm sure that when Emily feels comfortable, she'll reach out to us and get in touch with us," Parker explained.

Law enforcement still have questions but are happy to close the case.

Daffin continued, "I can't sit here and say I'll get a good night's sleep tonight because there's things I still don't know that I would still like to know. When the time's right and she wants to talk about anything, she's got a direct line to get in touch with me."

Bay County Sheriff's officials would not say where Emily is staying, but Captain Daffin said it is not in Florida.