The 8-year-old girl who went missing Friday after leaving school has been found safe, Mesa police confirmed Saturday morning. 

Details about the girl’s whereabouts were unclear as of 7:30 a.m., but police announced the girl had been located after an overnight search drew trained teams and volunteers from across the Valley to the area near Hawthorne Elementary School in Mesa. 

Mesa police Sgt. Diane Williams on Friday said Leilani Miller was last seen as she was leaving Hawthorne Elementary School, near University and Stapley drives, about 2:15 p.m.

A family member arrived at the school to pick her up about 2:40 p.m. but could not locate the girl, Williams said. Police received the report of her missing soon after that, Williams said.

“There is no suspicious circumstance that we are aware of at this point,” Williams said.

Search efforts continued into Saturday, with police reiterating its plea for the public’s help before the 7:30 a.m. announcement she had been located. 

Williams said family members told police it was out of character for Leilani not to return home. Williams added that police looked into possible issues with custody or family disputes, but said it does not appear that is a factor in the girl’s disappearance.

Numerous residents in the area of the Mesa neighborhood joined in the search.

“My mother-in-law called me and she told me they were going to go searching for the girl and I just wanted to help,” said Audra Marshall, 22, who lives near the school.

Julia Milbourne, 21, another nearby resident, said her boss mentioned the missing girl as she was getting off work Friday. She then saw social-media posts and wanted to help.

“I saw it all over Facebook and the school district sent out voice mails to parents describing the missing girl,” Milbourne said.

Police are asking anyone with information to call 480-644-2211. 


Go inside the Phoenix Fire Department 911 call center to learn about what’s going on when you call 911 in the Phoenix metro area. Hannah Gaber/


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