DENVER, Colo. – After exactly two weeks of searching, crying and praying, a missing 16-year-old from Canton, Ga., has been found halfway across the country.
According to her older sister, Brooke Olschewske, Mayci was spotted on Interstate 70 in Denver, Colo., where police pulled her over and took her into custody on Thursday, Sept. 14.
Mayci was last seen filling her 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe’s tank at Murphy’s gas station in Canton, Ga., just off Riverstone Parkway on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 8:30 a.m.—and then darted across the street to empty her bank account, withdrawing all the money she earned the weekend before, refereeing a soccer game, out of an ATM.
And then, she vanished for more than a dozen days.
"I just want to tell her, I love you so much," her 20-year-old sister, Brooke said choking up and fighting back tears, shortly after her younger sister drove off without a word. "I miss... just being sisters. Everything."
"Everyone is just destroyed. We can't move on without her."
Nine days after she disappeared, her family was given some hopeful news from two states away.
Her car was spotted driving on westbound Highway 22, going over Harden’s Chapel Road in Fulton, Miss., Brooke said.
Police confirmed that she was alone.
However, that was at 1:30 p.m., the day she left town. She had driven just over 200 miles from home, and about 100 miles northwest of Birmingham, Ala. Continuing a path on Highway 22 could have led her to Memphis.
“We have no idea where she plans on going or stopping,” her mom, Nicole Olschewske posted on Facebook.
But her sister believed that she might head northwest—possibly to Oregon where she has an aunt or Yosemite in California.
Yosemite National Park is more than 1,900 miles from home. Oregon is more than 2,000 miles.
Brooke hoped that she would reach out once she reached as far as she can go.
“I think, is that she's gonna drive as far as she can until she can't drive anymore. And, at that point, I'm hoping that she contacts one of us."
"She's independent. She thinks she can do this, but she can't."
According to the Canton Police Department, Mayci was last seen by her family at her house in Canton. Her mom said she left the house around 7:50 a.m., but never made it to school.
Early in their search, police thought she might head to Paulding County, where she just moved from this summer.
Mayci is 5'5, 133 lbs., with blond hair and green eyes. She was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, white gym shoes and her hair pulled back.
Sifting through photos of her, Brooke brags, "She's so pretty; she's so gorgeous—but she doesn't see it. And that's just it, she doesn't see how special she is. She's such a special girl, unlike anyone else."
"She's perfect. She's a perfect girl. She's so nice. She has such a creative, beautiful soul. She has the biggest heart. And then you look at her, and she's gorgeous. It's like, how can you be so perfectly made, but such a horrible disease can just destroy her and make her not see it."
Mayci, Brooke said, used to play soccer, is an artist, and loves nature—even her room is chalk full of plants. But underneath her beauty, immense independence and unbridled creativity, she battled a pain unseen by the naked eye. Her smiles hid her anguish.
She looked so happy in photos and seemed happy with her family. But Brooke said, she never talked about how she was feeling, so no one really saw how severe her depression was getting.
"She seemed fine. She seemed like a normal, happy girl—but she's so independent and keeps to herself, you would never know what's going on in her head."
PHOTOS | Have you seen Mayci?
Her mental pain began when she had just turned into a teenager and started middle school.
In 2014, the Olschewskes resided in Paulding County when she ran away for the first time. According to her sister, she was relentlessly bullied.
"She was being bullied really bad at school and some boys were harassing her really bad—and she has depression, so it's really hard because it clouds your judgment and you don't really know. I think she just couldn't take it and ran away," Brooke said.
Mayci was found in the woods less than a mile away from her house within hours. It was easier, Brooke said, because she was 13 and not driving yet.
She attended online school for a while to dodge her bullies.
"She just didn't want to go to school at all. Every morning, she would just cry and didn't want to go."
She really liked doing her schoolwork online, but when she started high school, she wanted to go back to a brick-and-mortar school. But it didn't work out.
"Girls are mean and boys are really mean. People were just treating her really badly," her sister said of being harassed, laughed at, teased, ignored and belittled. "She just really sweet and she's not one to be mean to anyone so she had trouble standing up for herself."
That only fueled her antagonists, Brooke said.
"When they see that it affects you really, bad, they keep doing it.”
PHOTOS: Mayci Olschewske
This year, for her junior year, she and her family moved to Canton. Their parents had lived in their Paulding County home for 20 years before moving this summer.
Brooke said that Mayci was the one who instigated the family's move, eager to make new friends and start over at a new school.
"All summer she's been really excited, saying, 'I can't wait to have friends and start over,'" Brooke, a college student in Kennesaw, recalled.
Classes at Cherokee High School started on Aug. 1, but it wasn't the fresh start she had been longing for.
"She just didn't really make friends," her sister said. "She's always like, 'I just want a best friend; I want to have a really, good friend.'"
Smiles and laughter concealed the wounds inside.
"Around us, she's always so happy and laughing and just completely normal, but you would never know what is going on in her head. The depression she has to go through every day, because she just seems so fine. She doesn't really talk about what's going on with her. She always just kept to herself."
The day she left, the therapist who they had been trying to get her into see, returned their phone call to schedule an appointment. But it was too late.
"It's hard because we were in the process. We tried to get her the help she needs," Brooke said.
Brooke described the past two weeks as one really, long day of torture that hasn't ended.
"We can't go on without her. Our life doesn't move and doesn't exist without her. She's so loved and so cared about. She just has to come back. She has to. Not just for us, but for herself, so we can keep her safe and get her the help she needs."
Luna, her dog, has been stationed at the door, waiting for her girl to return.
"She's upset and depressed."
"We're all just grieving differently."
According to Brooke, the family’s makeshift spokeswoman, their mom is really falling apart.
"She's a disaster. I mean it's her baby. You can't get in between a mom and her baby. She's just thinking, how could Mayci do this? What was she thinking?"
But, Brooke revealed, that her mom doesn't understand that Mayci wasn’t thinking about them, she just had to get away.
"She's crying constantly. She can't sleep. She won't eat," Brooke said of her mom, whereas, their dad is trying to keep himself busy so that the bad thoughts that creep into his mind, stay out.
Brooke and Nicole took to social media pleading with her to come home, creating a Facebook page “Finding Mayci” to share her story widespread and across the country--unknowing its full reach or potential.
Nicole posted a graphic with the following quote, just days after she went missing.
"When your heart is breaking for someone who is broken, but your words can't reach them and your love can't save them, ask the angels to go where you cannot. To whisper into their heart what their ears can't hear: 'We will not give up on you. Don't give up on yourself.'"
She also posted these heartfelt pleas to her teenage daughter day after day, including the most recent one, just hours before she was found.
It was an excruciating couple of weeks for her family. But they gained solace in friends they found on social media.
Brooke even prayed on her Facebook page with those online to pleaded for Mayci’s safe return.
This is just to pray together and to give everyone a run down on how on earth ive been able to be this strong-its not me, its God. This is also to thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart for all your help. I'm gonna try my best to lead us all in a group prayer because where we join in prayer, He will be also. Any questions or suggestions or verses just comment i guess
But on Thursday afternoon, 14 days after she disappeared from Georgia, her sister announced that their family’s nightmare was over.
Idaho Springs Police received a 911 call from a citizen who had seen a missing person post and recognized her car. Police pulled her over and positively identified her.
All the glory to God. i can't wait to see what his plan is from here. the longest worst day of our lives is finally over. mayci is safe. say a quick hallelujah to God and always remember don't just praise him in the storm bc He is Good ALL THE TIME!!!!! Don't delete anything i want her to see it all. it'll be a little bit until we get her i think 72 hours in holding or something. PRAISE GOD