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Lisa Theris called inspiration as survival story makes national news

Pictures of the aftermath of Lisa Theris' survival
Updated: Aug. 16, 2017 at 6:45 PM CDT
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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Judy Garner, the woman who rushed to help Lisa Theris (Source: Judy Garner)
Judy Garner, the woman who rushed to help Lisa Theris (Source: Judy Garner)

BULLOCK COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - The woman who survived a month naked and alone in the woods of rural Alabama is now getting national attention.

Lisa Theris' ordeal in Bullock County is making headlines across the country. New photos released by the Bullock County Sheriff's Office show the 25-year-old gingerly stepping out of a police car as she headed into the hospital after she was located.

Other pictures show the toll nearly a month out in isolated woods took on her. She lost more than 40 pounds.

The 25-year-old was spotted crawling up the side of the road with no clothes on along Highway 82 by Judy Garner, a Florida woman who works as a caregiver.

Garner had just left her boss' deer camp in Union Springs and was headed down Highway 82 East on her way back to Florida when something caught her eye.

"We were driving and I looked over and there was something moving right at the edge of the road. The grass was pretty tall in that area. I saw something and it was on all fours and I thought it was a deer," she said.

But when she got closer, she quickly realized it was a person and turned back around.

"It was a woman on the side of the road with no clothes on. She was pretty much at the top when I got there and I saw some arms go up and her face went up. She was on her knees and her hands. When I got there and went over to her and she said, 'Help me, please," Garner stated in a phone interview.

She quickly grabbed water from her car and gave it to Lisa. She also called 911 and dispatchers informed her that the woman she was helping had been missing for more than three weeks. She waited there with Lisa until first responders arrived.

"She drank the water quickly and I went back to the van and got her a shirt that buttons up and some boxer shorts. She said it felt good to have clothes on," Garner added.

She asked Lisa what was going on and she told her she'd been in the woods eating berries and drinking muddy water to survive.

Garner also asked Lisa what happened to her clothes and what happened to her.

"She said she didn't know," Garner said.

She remained at Lisa's side as the police and paramedics arrived.

"All of the members of law enforcement had big smiles on their faces and they were rejoicing that she'd been found," Garner said. "Her hair was matted. She was dirty all over. She had scratches and bite marks from head to toe, fingers nails all dirty."

She doesn't think Lisa would have been able to make it much longer.

"When I got to her, she was exhausted but a very polite lady. She had a lot of manners. She's had a good upbringing," Garner stated.

Lisa also mentioned during their interaction that she was looking forward to the comfort of sleeping in a bed.

It's still not clear how she ended up naked and lost in the woods. Two men questioned in her disappearance remain in custody, charged in a hunting camp burglary committed around the time she vanished. No other information has been released.

Bullock County investigators addressed social media firestorm surrounding the case and all those who find Lisa being able to survive weeks alone in the wilderness hard to believe.

"We released those photos to calm some of this social media stuff down and show the true side of what really happened to Ms. Theris," said Sgt. Chad Faulkner, the lead investigator on the case. "There's been people with cruel judgments and statements."

He says the agency is dedicated to getting justice for everyone involved in the case, even the two men who have been questioned about what happened to Lisa.

"We want justice for her, and all the way around. Social media has not been fair to the two guys. That's why we have a judicial system and due process for things to be fair," Faulkner said.

"We are 110 percent sure she was out there the whole time," added Chief Deputy Anthony Williams. "That's why we released some of those photos to the media. A lot of people are saying things but they don't have all the facts. Maybe after they see all the facts and photos, maybe it will change some of their minds that she was out there the whole time because the pictures tell the story."

As for Judy Garner, she will never forget the day she found Lisa and says the young woman has not left her thoughts. She hopes Lisa can get on with her life and will be following the case very closely from Florida.

"I told her I didn't know how she did it and she just got a big old smile. I told her it would have been less than an hour and I would have freaked out. She was always on the go, trying to find her way out. That's probably why they had trouble finding her. She would wake up and keep going," Garner said.

She thanked Lisa for giving people hope in the face of big obstacles.

"She's an inspiration to everybody. I know she is to me. I was going to help her one way or another. I don't care how long it would have taken, I would have stayed there with her," Garner said. "She inspired me to know all I can about surviving if I should ever get lost in the woods. She's taught me that you can get out of any situation if you just know what you need to do."

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