MISSING WOMAN UPDATE: ‘I don’t think she would have survived another day,’ sheriff says

Published 4:06 pm Sunday, July 23, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said if it weren’t for the help received from a number of different agencies and the teamwork displayed by all involved, the search for a missing Natchez woman could have had a very different outcome.

Julia Kelly was last seen on Saturday at about 7 p.m. after she and another person had spent a day in the Homochitto National Forest, searching a creek bed for arrowheads, Patten said Saturday night.

An unexpected strong storm during the early evening separated the two.

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“One person made it back to the truck. But Kelly did not,” the sheriff said.

The search began near Garden City Road in the national forest Saturday night, but was called at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. The search resumed at about 9 a.m. Sunday.

“I want to thank Adams County Search and Rescue, the Adams County Emergency Management Agency, of course the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the state game wardens, Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries and the federal game wardens from the forestry commission,” he said.

The American Red Cross provided lunch for rescuers, about 40 in all.

“We all met up this morning and devised a game plan. We looked at the map and created a grid, which we broke into sectors, which all came to a center point in the national forest,” Patten said.

He said before devising a search plan this morning, the group gathered together and prayed they would find Kelly alive and well.

Kelly was located at approximately 1:20 p.m. by state game warden T. Good and federal game warden C. Whitaker.

“When she saw them, she came out of a culvert, asking for help,” Patten said. “She was covered from head to toe in insect bites and scratches and had numerous bruises. We have not had an opportunity to talk with her yet. She was depleted. I mean completely depleted. I don’t think she would have survived another day in that national forest.”

He said the area in which Kelly was found was not accessible by vehicles.

“It took three of us — myself and two other game wardens — on ATVs to get her out. She couldn’t take another step. She was just that weak,” he said.

Kelly was brought out of the forest to Deerfield Road, where an AMR ambulance was waiting to transport her to Merit Health Hospital in Natchez for medical attention.

It took about two hours after she was found to get her out of the woods to the awaiting AMR ambulance.

“I can’t thank our local, state and federal partners enough for the efforts they displayed last night and today. If it were not for all of these resources combining together and working as a united team, we would not have found her alive today. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office is certainly thankful. It’s been a hot day, but a good one,” Sheriff Patten said.