HIGHLAND HOME, AL (WSFA) - The mother of a Highland Home girl who vanished from her home more than a year ago says Alissia Freeman has reached out to her family and is safe.
Vickie Metcalf, Alissia's mom, says she video chatted with her daughter Monday and revealed that she is alright.
It's not clear where the teen has been since she disappeared or why she suddenly reached out to her relatives.
Crenshaw County Sheriff Mickey Powell says his agency is aware of the "rumor" that Alissia had been located but that law enforcement has not seen or talked to her in person to confirm it. He added that Alissia has not contacted police, only her mother.
On Tuesday afternoon, family members and investigators were traveling to an undisclosed out of state location to make physical contact with her. She is not in Alabama.
Metcalf also indicated she's discussed some things with Alissia about her disappearance and what has transpired since 2015, but relatives declined to discuss those details at this time.
Her family is looking forward to reuniting with Alissia, her mother said.
"I can't put into words what we're feeling," Metcalf added. "Happiness can't even cover all of our emotions. I'm overwhelmed with joy."
Alissia's disappearance has made national news, and her photo has been shared around the world.
On Dec. 13, 2015, Alissia told her parents she was cleaning her room at her family's home on Dailey Road in Highland Home's Magnolia Shores community. She went to take the garbage from her room to the trash can outside but never came back.
When her family realized she was gone, they started looking for her in their neighborhood. They soon learned that a neighbor saw Alissia walking down the road they live on by herself. She didn't appear to have anything with her at the time. She was 17 when she vanished.
It was believed the homeschooled teen left with someone she met online. The FBI and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency have been working with the Crenshaw County Sheriff's Office during the course of the investigation.
The sheriff says Alissia wasn't seen getting into a vehicle the day she went missing, but it's possible she was lured away by someone she connected with on social media.
Local, state and federal authorities have spent countless hours on the case and a $13,500 reward for information was offered for information.
There were a number of reported sightings of Alissia over the past 16 months, both locally and in cities across the Southeast, from Atlanta to New Orleans. Sheriff Powell says surveillance video of what looked like the teen on Bourbon Street was reviewed. None of the sightings were ever confirmed.
"We have hoped all along that we could bring this family good news," the sheriff said.
Vickie Metcalf constantly updated the "Help Find Alissia Freeman" Facebook page, sharing her pictures in the hopes someone will recognize her and come forward with important information.
In their quest for answers, Metcalf and her husband, Alissia's stepfather, were targeted by scammers preying on vulnerable families. They got a message on the Facebook page from someone who said they lived in Georgia and had been dating a man who they found out was a pimp. The tipster said they saw him with Alissia in Atlanta and alluded that she had been sold to someone in Canada.
The Metcalfs said the claims and conversations were detailed and convincing. They were told they could buy Alissia back from the human traffickers for $35,000. Another $35,000 payment was required once they were reunited with her.
The couple found out it was fake when they gave the information to the FBI. The IP address traced back to Russia.
Last year, Metcalf made a post that went viral and was shared internationally, addressing the possibility that her daughter is tied up in human trafficking.
"There's been a lot of tips that have come in. We're still not 100 percent sure on what the situation is but trafficking is a possibility. We don't know for sure what's going on, really. There are no updates other than some tips that have come in. Everything is still pretty much the same," Metcalf said about the investigation.
In her post, she wrote: "According to dosomething.org, between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked in the U.S. each year. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking)."
"I don't know what they do, how they get the girls to leave and go along with their plan but apparently, their whole purpose in getting them away is to get them into trafficking," Metcalf said.
She said investigators were exploring similarities between Alissia's case and a case out of Nebraska.
On March 16, 2016, Gracie Toelle headed out the door of her grandmother's home in North Platte to take out the garbage and didn't return. A massive search for the 15-year-old was launched, but there was no sign of her. Suddenly, eight months later, she surfaced at a shelter in San Francisco. It's not clear what she went through or how she got to California, but she was reunited with her family.