JOHN DAY - Acynthia Sanford was surprised, upon coming home from a shopping trip July 2, to learn that she was a missing person.

"Why would I be missing?" she recalls thinking.

Sanford was the subject of a search launched by the Grant County Sheriff's Office the morning of July 2, after well-meaning friends reported her missing.

The Sheriff's Office determined later that day that Sanford was not a missing person, and called off the search.

Sanford, a noted photographer of wildlife, is known to travel the area widely in pursuit of that avocation. Friends knew she had gone out looking for an unusual bird to photograph in the Magone Lake area.

They also mistakenly thought she hadn't returned home.

About 10:35 a.m. July 2, the Sheriff's Office, having received a call about her being missing, activated an air search in hopes of spotting her car from the air.

Sanford, who said she enjoys watching wildlife and exploring the region, said she had gone to the Long Creek area with a friend on Saturday, June 30, on an errand. She also checked out Magone Lake, and returned there Sunday, July 1, to take photographs of birds and flowers.

She returned home about 7 or 7:30 p.m. July 1, chatted by phone with a sister-in-law who lives in Washington state, and turned in for the night.

She decided that Monday might be her best day to take a drive to Bend for a quick shopping trip at Costco, so she jumped in the car about 7 a.m. and hit the road. It must have been just minutes later, she figures, that a good friend came by and saw that her car was gone. Having tried to reach Sanford the previous day, the friend concluded that she had never returned home from her weekend wanderings.

That assumption led to the call to the Sheriff's Office, which triggered the missing person report and eventually the air search.

Sanford said she was surprised to hear about the search, especially since at least one neighbor had seen her car at home the night before and could have told authorities she wasn't missing.

"I would have thought there would be things that the Sheriff's Office would have checked out before activating a search," Sanford said. "If I had said I was going to be somewhere at a certain time and then didn't show up, well, that would be completely different."

She said she hoped people would talk with neighbors, friends and relatives before jumping to conclusions.

Sheriff Glenn Palmer said no one had talked to the neighbor who knew

Sanford had been home. He said a close friend and a member of Sanford's church reported that she hadn't been seen for several days.

However, deputies later contacted the pastor of the church, who said that it isn't unusual for Sanford to be gone "for extended periods."

Palmer also said that air searches are done by local pilots and spotters, who own their own aircraft. There is no cost to the Sheriff's Office, although the pilots can get reimbursement for fuel and oil from the state Office of Emergency Management.

Sanford was a little disturbed by some of the chain of events, and by the misinformation that was given out in some cases. She said a son and daughter-in-law were led to believe that an air search had been going on all weekend.

She said if people are worried about someone, the time to call and check on them is at night, when the person should be home - not during the day, when there are lots of logical reasons someone like her would be away from home.

She also urged people to be observant in their neighborhoods, so they will be aware of when someone's pattern of movement is routine, and when it is not.

Meanwhile, she had a message for friends and well-wishers in the local area.

"I'm just fine," she said.

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