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Derek Petersen, Deseret News
Paramedics check out 12-year-old Ashley Esquivel after a couple of citizens found the missing girl Tuesday March 4, 2014. The West Valley City Police Department was seeking the publics assistance in locating 12-year-old Ashley Esquivel, who had not been seen since 3:30 pm Monday. Ashley was last seen outside her school, the American Preparatory School located at 3636 W. 3100 South in West Valley City.

WEST VALLEY CITY — A 12-year-old girl with diminished mental capacity was found safe Tuesday morning after being missing for about 17 hours.

Ashley Esquivel was spotted walking along a sidewalk near 4590 S. 6200 West, about 35 blocks from the school where she was last seen Monday afternoon.

Ashley was treated at a local hospital for hypothermia and was released Tuesday afternoon, said West Valley Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell.

After talking to the young girl, investigators do not suspect any foul play was involved, he said.

Detectives said Ashley apparently got into an argument with one of her teachers at the American Preparatory School, 3636 W. 3100 South near Bangerter Highway, over one of her assignments. She became upset and went outside the school to take a walk and "cool down," Powell said.

She walked along 3100 South toward the mountains because they "looked peaceful" to her, he said. But Ashley, who has a "diminished capacity" and does not live in West Valley City, became disoriented and lost after the sun went down, he said. Police believe the young girl spent the entire night outside.

She found a place to rest, reportedly still outside. And when the sun came up Tuesday morning, she began walking again, Powell said.

The break in the case came about 8:40 a.m. Tuesday when Isaiah Nau and his wife were driving their child to school and noticed a girl walking alone at 4590 S. 6200 West. The couple had seen fliers about the missing girl at the school and realized that the child matched Ashley's description. They turned around and asked the girl for her name. She told them "Ashley."

The girl was in a school uniform, including a light sweater. The couple said she appeared to be sad and tired.

West Valley police and paramedics were called to the scene. Ashley was checked out and then transported to a local hospital.

Powell said Ashley was very lucky that it wasn't any colder Monday night and that it didn't snow as she was not dressed for winter weather.

Ashley is in a special education program at the school. Her parents were worried Monday about her "ability to function in these types of circumstances," Powell said.

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