Aubrey Joyce Carroll was 15 years old when he disappeared from his Georgia high school without a trace. Since 2016, his disappearance prompted candlelit vigils, Dateline interviews, fodder for amateur sleuths on forums and Reddit threads.
Well, it turns out Carroll is doing just fine! He wasn’t abducted, abused, or harmed in any way. Carroll, now 17, spent the last two years bartering and traveling out west, living a cash-only lifestyle with a troop of fellow barterer/travelers that Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix described as, “a group of people from the Woodstock era in their clothing and lifestyle.”
“He had a support group that he was with and all indications were that he was happy and was thriving,” Dix told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
On Tuesday, Carroll appeared in a video with Dix on the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. His hair is considerably longer than it was when he disappeared, and he’s rocking a Sublime shirt, looking every bit like that lovable stoner in your 10th grade English class.
“I’d like to tell y’all thank y’all so much for all your prayers and looking out for my momma. I appreciate y’all so much,” said Carroll. “I’m all right. I’m OK. I’ve been smiling, and y’all should do the same.”
The road to a family reunion was a messy one following the long investigation into Carroll’s whereabouts. From CBS News:
Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix said in a Tuesday statement to news outlets that they wanted to arrange a reunion without sending Aubrey back into hiding, but their plan was spoiled by a family member who warned Aubrey.
The young man then contacted his mother in Griffin, Georgia, but their reunion was on his terms, including whom he spoke with and where he stayed.
When Carroll’s father, Michael, reported him missing in May 2016, he assumed his son would soon come back on his own accord. He was so confident about this that he didn’t bother telling Carroll’s mother about their son’s disappearance.
According to an aunt on Carroll’s mother’s side, Michael—who had custody of Aubrey—ran a strict household and limited the amount of time he could spend with his friends. Michael told NBC News that he got into some trouble the weekend before he ran away, but that it “wasn’t that big a deal.”
Sounds sus, but okay.
Carroll is currently staying with his mother and is hopefully playing “Santeria” on maximum volume.