Missing woman stayed alive for month in wilderness eating berries, mushrooms

Published: Aug. 14, 2017 at 7:23 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2017 at 7:30 AM CDT
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Bullock County authorities gave a press conference after Lisa was found. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Bullock County authorities gave a press conference after Lisa was found. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Authorities say Lisa survived the month alone in the woods. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Authorities say Lisa survived the month alone in the woods. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
A driver spotted Lisa on the side of the highway. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
A driver spotted Lisa on the side of the highway. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

BULLOCK COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - A woman determined to see her loved ones again endured a harrowing ordeal for weeks in the woods of Bullock County. Her survival story is being called a miracle.

Lisa Theris, 25, of Louisville, had been missing for nearly a month when she emerged from the wood line on Highway 82  over the weekend and was spotted by someone driving by.

A massive search had been underway for Theris and spanned several counties, with multiple agencies involved in the investigation.

Now, more shocking details are surfacing about her survival tactics. She had no shelter, no shoes, no phone, no purse and was all by herself in thousands of acres of isolated, dense forest. There were no roads or homes anywhere around her in the expansive block of land.

Sheriff Raymond Rodgers said Theris was spotted on the side of the road around 2 p.m. Saturday by a woman driving down Highway 82 near the Bullock County and Barbour County line.

"A motorist from Florida was driving 82 east of Midway and saw something moving in the bushes. She went back and there was the young lady in the wooded area. She called us and told us she had located the missing person," the sheriff said. "Finally the young lady has been found and she's alive. Thank God."

Theris was treated at the local emergency room and reunited with her family, who rushed to Bullock County after receiving the news that she was found.

The sheriff shed some light on how Lisa stayed alive as she was exposed to brutal elements day and night.

"She had been out lost in the woods," he said. "She said she was drinking water out of a brook and eating berries and mushrooms."

He also revealed that Lisa lost 50 pounds during the weeks she was on her own in the wilderness. Hungry and thirsty, officials said it was very disorienting for her and she kept getting turned around. Search teams, equipped with dogs, covered a lot of ground looking for her, but there were so many miles to cover in the thick woods.

Lisa told authorities she was on the move, doing all she could to find a way out and get help. She finally managed to make it to the highway on Saturday.

"The bugs had really been on her and she had a lot of scratch marks. We didn't ask her too many questions. We want to make sure her health is good so we got her on to the hospital. We did not interrogate her at that time," Sheriff Rodgers said.

Theris was last seen in Midway before she went missing. Her family reported her missing on July 23.

Investigators say she was with two men who burglarized a hunting camp in Midway on July 17-18. Lisa Theris did not know they were going there to break into the lodge and steal things and didn't want to be a part of it, officials said. The two men, Manley Davis and Randall Oswald, have since been captured and charged.

"She's not familiar with this area and apparently on the night she ran, she went into the woods at night and got lost. I just thank God that she's alive," the sheriff said.

"It's a relief to all of us. We put a lot of man hours into this case to find her and this is a really good outcome," added Sgt. Chad Faulkner, lead investigator on the case. "Her will to live was strong, when you have a will to live and survive. It's a miracle."

The investigation into what happened is still ongoing and there are many questions surrounding the burglary, the two suspects and Lisa's disappearance. Officials declined to release any other information at this point.

"We don't have the total details on everything yet. We wanted to make sure her health was in the best shape and in the days to come, we'll get some answers," Sgt. Faulkner said. "She's alive and that's all that matters at this moment. We can confirm she was in the area, but as far as that goes, we can't confirm anything else right now."

Lisa Theris declined to comment at her home in Louisville on Monday. Residents in the town expressed their relief that she is back home and healing from her scary journey.

"I'm just glad she's back and safe. That's rough, being in the woods for a month. It could have been a lot worse. It's great that she's OK and back at home," said James Starks.

Lisa's sister, Elizabeth, praised her resiliency.

"Words cannot describe the happiness and relief we feel that she has been found and returned to us," Elizabeth Theris said. "We are lucky that she is alive, she is so strong and has made it through so much. She is severely weakened, she is in pain, she is emaciated. There is not an inch of her that has not been affected."

Relatives are enjoying spending time with Lisa as she recovers.

"She has some complications and has a lot of healing to get through but she is standing strong and full of jokes as ever," her brother, Will, said. "The next few weeks will be rough, but she is handling it all like a trooper and our family will continue to do all we can to help. We are very thankful for everyone's thoughts and prayers."

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