A 19-year-old’s dream of beginning a new life in a big city has taken a terrifying turn for her family and friends, who say they haven’t heard from the teen in two weeks.
Morgan Bauer packed up and left Aberdeen, South Dakota, for Atlanta on Feb. 12, with just $20 cash, her mother told The Huffington Post Sunday.
“She just wanted to start a new life and she wanted to start her adulthood, I guess is the best way to explain it. I don’t know why she chose Atlanta,” Sherri Sichmeller said.
“I didn't really want her to go [but] she's just a 'go big' kind of girl," she said. "She was trying to prove that she can do it."
Before her daughter arrived in Atlanta, Sichmeller said the teen made plans with someone on Craigslist who offered her a free place to stay in exchange for chores. Once she had an income she’d start paying rent.
It didn’t take long for things to go awry.
“She went out looking for a job and when she came back all of her stuff was outside and there was a note that said, 'don't come back,’” her mother said. “She panicked. She only had $20 cash on her that her friend had given her but she had a card with money coming for her from H&R Block.”
Bauer told her best friend that she went to a hotel, but didn't say which one, Sichmeller said.
Since then, Bauer's cell phone has been turned off and as of Feb. 29 there haven’t been any posts on any of her social media accounts, Sichmeller said, adding that that’s completely unlike her daughter.
“She would not, not be in contact with her friends. She would not be completely silent,” her mother said. “That's not her... She's very outgoing. Her personally, she could light up a room in 30 seconds. She's beautiful and so impressionable. She's very trusting.”
It’s that last trait that particularly worries her.
Though Bauer didn’t have any experience, her mother said she sought work dancing at local strip clubs. Bauer visited at least two businesses while there, with her daughter posting since-deleted photos of her dancing to Snapchat, her mother said.
The businesses, when reached by her family, have said that though Bauer inquired about work, she didn’t have the right paperwork to dance, according to her mother.
One business could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.
Atlanta police launched a formal investigation into Bauer's disappearance on Saturday once it had been verified that she indeed made it to Atlanta.
Since word of the family’s desperation began circulating on social media, the family has received an outpouring of donations through a GoFundMe account. Sichmeller said those funds will be used to fly her and her husband into Atlanta on Tuesday where they’ll begin their own door-to-door search.
She believes some people may be more forthcoming with them than with inquiring police officers.
“The only fear I have is that she's with the wrong people who are going to move her,” she said.
Bauer is 5-foot-6 and weighs 125 pounds. She has blue eyes, long brown hair and multiple tattoos and piercings.
Anyone with information on her disappearance is urged to contact the Atlanta Police Department's missing persons/homicide unit at 404-546-4235.
Her family and friends are meanwhile providing updates on her search in a Facebook group called “Missing Morgan” which as of Sunday has more than 3,000 members.
Photos of Bauer and some of her tattoos are also circulating on an Imgur page that catapulted to the site’s front page Sunday.
“People have been so amazing,” Sichmeller said. “I know that her face has gotten all over the world, literally."