Chelsea Lund's friends and neighbors were determined to make sure the frightened and weary kidnapping survivor had no problem finding her way home.
A two-mile stretch from I-15 to Lund's red-brick house in Orem was dotted with purple hearts, yellow ribbons and giant signs to celebrate a safe return from a five-day ordeal that ended at 4:10 a.m. Tuesday in St. George."It's the best day in the world. I don't remember any other day that was better than this one," said Dea Lund to a cheering crowd of neighbors and news crews.
"Thanks for being here, but I can't talk to you now," she said, cradling her sobbing daughter in her arms. "I'm going to take her home."
News that Chelsea Lund was released by her captor near a convenience store on the outskirts of St. George spread quickly through this close-knit community near Corel's corporate offices on 1600 North. Dozens of balloons and banners were flying by early afternoon.
Jenni Clarke, 13, lives at the house where Frederick Laird allegedly called to lure Chelsea to his car last Thursday. The 37-year-old prison parolee, a distant cousin, reportedly told the girl on the phone he was going to help buy a surprise gift for her mother.
"I was really happy," said Clarke, who was awakened at 6 a.m. Tuesday by her mother with the news that Chelsea Lund had been found by police at a convenience store.
"When I found out she was taken I felt sick, like I was going to throw up."
"I prayed for her," added Justin Markham, 13, a former schoolmate at North-ridge Elementary School.
"So did I," said 8-year-old Branden Mark-ham.
Neighbor Donna Ranes knew Chelsea Lund as the giggly preteen who scampered around the neighborhood with friends. Donna has lived next door to the Lunds for about five years.
"I was concerned myself after the first couple of days," Ranes said. "I was so grateful I spent the morning in tears."
Laird, who served 13 years in a Colorado prison for aggravated auto theft and charges of escape and attempted escape, is still at large. A federal warrant for his arrest has been issued.
Police remain baffled about a motive for the kidnapping but spent some time Tuesday interviewing Chelsea about places he may have taken her near Cedar City.
Orem Lt. Bob Conner said Laird - a tattooed, muscular man - changed the license plate on his Nissan Sentra and is wearing a baseball cap over his shaved head as a disguise.
Laird reportedly told Chelsea Lund he would cut her with a knife if she called anyone after he let her go. However, after he sped off, she walked to a nearby Conoco station, told the store worker about her ordeal and called her mother.
Conner also said St. George, Washington County, Nevada and Arizona law officials are joining the search for Laird, who has a history of brandishing firearms in brushes with the law.