IOWA CITY, Iowa — An Iowa businesswoman who was the subject of a nationwide search after vanishing two weeks ago was found Wednesday in a confused state at a Texas truck stop and is safe with relatives, authorities said.
Sharon Hopf, 45, of Crawfordsville called a relative in Missouri at about 8 a.m. Wednesday from a Pilot truck stop off Interstate 35 in Fort Worth and "seemed to be disoriented," said agent Jeff Uhlmeyer of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Hopf's brother, who lives in Dallas, picked her up. She was released by the Fort Worth Police Department after authorities confirmed she did not need medical attention, Uhlmeyer said.
He said Hopf was "having trouble identifying herself" when officers arrived and family members may decide that she needs medical treatment in the future. He said authorities will interview Hopf and others in the next few days to piece together her route.
"She's safe and alive and that's the positive outcome of the day," Uhlmeyer said. "We're still unclear what was going on in Sharon's life and how she ended up in Texas."
Hopf had been the subject of a search that used planes, dogs and volunteers after she failed to show up for work at the home furnishings company she co-owns with her husband in Kalona on Jan. 5. Two days later, her car was found at an abandoned home near Interstate 70 outside of Wright City, Mo., about 30 miles west of St. Louis, after authorities issued a nationwide call for help locating her vehicle.
Investigators in Missouri used dozens of volunteers to search for Hopf in a one-mile radius near her car. In Iowa, investigators searched in several areas around Hopf's home and business, and the Iowa State Patrol conducted an aerial search.
Last week, investigators announced they believed she left on her own to get away from family and work stress that included taking on more responsibilities at her furniture business.
Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar said then that Hopf would not face any criminal charges if she was found, saying the disappearance was being treated as a missing persons case. On Wednesday, Uhlmeyer agreed that there would be no charges.
Hopf's husband, Perry Hopf, had fought back tears while pleading with her to call home during a news conference on Friday.
Investigators said Sharon Hopf had written herself a $1,000 check titled "employee bonus" from their business on Jan. 3 and cashed it at a local bank. The next day, she deleted her entire sent email folder from her work computer and many emails she had received. Co-workers said that was odd behavior.
The next morning, investigators say she woke up and left for work an hour earlier than usual. But instead of going to the office, they say she filled her car's gas tank, turned off her cellphone and drove south. They say a search of her vehicle indicated she had traveled alone, and had apparently taken her keys when she left the vehicle, but not her phone.
State and local investigators in Iowa released a statement Wednesday thanking "the Hopf family, volunteers and multiple law enforcement agencies from Iowa, Missouri and Texas" for their assistance.