Michaela Nelson, a Specialist in the Ohio Army National Guard, has been missing for a month. Her family believes she may be alive and hiding. Her family last spoke to her on October 26, but military authorities claim she never checked back into her unit after she returned from training in early October.
The 26-year-old soldier was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina to complete her Advanced Individual Training. She returned back to her Dayton-based unit on October 2 but failed to check in, according to authorities. Nelson has been declared AWOL, according to a police report obtained by the Dayton Daily News.
The family of Nelson strongly believe she is alive and hiding. They hired private investigator James Terry to assist in the search for Nelson. According to Terry, while Nelson’s phone is off, her FaceTime still rings. This gives the family hope that Nelson is well and able to communicate with people.
“She’s using a phone, some sort of phone,” he told Fox News Digital this week. “She just doesn’t have her number on.”
Nelson last spoke with friends and relatives the day she disappeared in a text message exchange with her grandmother, according to her cousin Elise Miller. But the last time Miller spoke with Nelson was a month earlier at Nelson’s mother’s funeral, Miller said.
“She could be anywhere in the United States,” her father, Lance Nelson, told Fox News Digital. And she may still be driving her dark gray 2016 Dodge Charger SXT license plate JLL4284.
Between Oct. 6 and 15, according to her father, license plate readers in Columbus picked up her car near an apartment where she had lived. But by the time she had been reported missing and police had swept the area in early November, the vehicle was gone.
Nelson also had an ex who was the subject of a restraining order, her father said, but that is no longer in effect.
“I think that faded,” he said.
Nelson’s family believes she could be hiding to refrain from the punishments that come from going AWOL, which may include jail time.
In the months leading up to her disappearance, Nelson gained nearly 18,000 followers on her TikTok and started hanging out with a new group of friends. The group includes a number of professional athletes.
Terry said Nelson’s new social interests and the recent death of her mother may have led to a change in her priorities.
“First and foremost, Spc. Nelson’s health and safety are our priority,” an Ohio Army National Guard spokesperson told Fox News this week.
“Any discussion of discipline or administrative action is not a priority.”
Nelson uses the name Michaela Kay on her social media accounts and may have also gone by Kayla Kay.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call the Columbus Police Department at 614-645-4545. Terry is also urging anyone who has information about Nelson’s whereabouts but is reluctant to call police to call Gulf Coast Investigation at 813-993-2242.