After days of searching, missing Orange County woman with dementia found alive

A 75-year-old woman with dementia was found alive by search crews Friday more than 48 hours after she was reported missing.

Crews found Maryanne Rosenman around 11:25 a.m. in a drainage ditch in a wooded area off Whitfield Road. The area is between her Chapel Hill home — where she was last seen wearing a nightgown and sneakers — and an area where a driver spotted her earlier Friday, according to a news release.

ABC11, The News & Observer’s news gathering partner, reports she was found about a half-mile from her home in the northern part of Chapel Hill. She was “alert and communicative,” Sheriff Charles Blackwood said, according to ABC11, but was taken to UNC Hospital where she is “expected to recover.”

“She appeared to be quite happy that we had found her,” Blackwood said in a news conference streamed on ABC11.

A missing person Silver Alert had been active for Rosenman since Wednesday, and numerous agencies have taken part in the search effort over 53 hours, officials said. The search was coordinated by Orange County Emergency Services and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. More than 35 agencies with more than 300 people took part in the search over 43 missions, according to the press release. They responded to provide people and assets, including a helicopter, which officials said proved ineffective due to “heavy tree canopy,” according to the release.

ABC11 reports that the area where she was found had been searched twice already, but she was found there during a third, more “methodical” search.

“She could have been mobile. She could have been laying there for 50 hours. It’s very difficult to say,” Emergency Management Coordinator Kirby Saunders said, according to ABC11.

Through an Orange County spokesperson, Julian Rosenman, Maryanne’s husband, expressed his appreciation for the people assisting the search.

“It is hard to cope with the thoughts of her scared and alone,” he said in the news release. “My sons and I are extremely grateful for the efforts to find her and bring her home.”

In a press conference, Blackwood said he contacted her family after she was found and they were seen holding hands on the way to the hospital.

The family has been through a lot in the past three days, Blackwood said.

“There were times when they gave up,” he said. “But they always said they had a little hope. They doubted the fact that we would find her. This is as good an outcome as we could have hoped for.”

If you have a relative suffering from dementia, there are organizations can help, including Dementia Alliance of North Carolina. The Raleigh-based group provides care, education and support groups. Contact 919-832-3732 or info@DementiaNC.org.

Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.