NISKAYUNA -- The mother of a missing Arizona woman found alive this weekend by police in Niskayuna praised the local department Sunday for their efforts to identify her.
Niskayuna police found Amanda Hanover, 38, on Rosendale Road on Saturday after residents called to report a woman in the area who appeared suspicious.
Responding officers found her, but she had no ID and told them she didn't remember her name. All she had was two train tickets and a Post-It note with three phone numbers.
Investigators used that information and finally tracked down the woman's mother, Patricia Schachtner in Arizona later Saturday.
"When I saw a picture of her, I didn't recognize her at all and I started sobbing," Schachtner told The Daily Gazette by phone on Sunday, "because I was just so worried about her."
Family members are now focused on getting Hanover the help she needs. She is thankfully now getting that help locally, her mother said.
"All I can say to you is I have nothing but fantastic things to say about the people in New York, the officers," Schachtner said. "Officer Beth McGuire was unbelievable. In this day and age, the way people feel about police, that says a lot."
McGuire, a Niskayuna police sergeant, spearheaded the effort Saturday to identify Hanover, Deputy Police Chief Michael Stevens said. Detective Paul Hobson assisted.
By the time they had finished Saturday, the two had unlocked a mystery that had Hanover's family worried for months.
The investigators also uncovered a trail that spanned two countries, at least 4,400 miles and even involved Friday night's fire at the former Rensselaer City Hall.
Exactly what led her to Niskayuna remains a mystery, Stevens said, but she has an uncle in the Utica area and his number was one of the numbers on her Post-It note.
From Arizona to Canada to Niskayuna
Hanover's trail to Niskayuna began in March, when she left her home in Gilbert, Arizona, outside Phoenix, and was last seen by family in California. She left behind her two children, ages 4 and 11. Both are now with family, Schachtner said.
The next clue came from Calgary in late April. Her car was found abandoned there and, with the possibility that Hanover was still in the area, a local Calgary television station picked up her story.
Evidence in her car suggested Hanover hoped to settle there, her mother said. But what happened after that remains unknown.
Family members occasionally heard from Hanover by phone, Schachtner said. They heard from her again Friday with the message that she was taking a train to Albany-Rensselaer.
Schachtner's brother lives outside Utica and told her he would be at the station to pick her up. But Friday night's fire at the old Rensselaer City Hall snarled traffic and delayed his arrival.
By the time he got there, she had vanished again.
Then came Saturday and the calls about the woman on Rosendale. Callers told police she was attempting to enter vehicles and possibly sought assistance as she felt she was in danger.
When officers arrived and found her, she told them she didn't know her name, Stevens said.
"They didn't believe her to be evasive," Stevens said. "They believed that she didn't know her name and she looked disheveled, like she had been outside for a couple days, at least overnight."
So investigators set about trying to find the woman's name.
They checked her train tickets. An unknown man's name was on them. Police believe he could have simply been a good Samaritan who helped Hanover, though they don't know his exact connection.
Police then turned to the Post-It. The first number turned out to be the Hudson Police Department in Columbia County. Police there reported they had had no contacts with a similar woman and it is unknown why their number was on the note, Stevens said.
Investigators couldn't get through to the second number. The third number turned out to be Hanover's uncle and investigators had their answer.
With Hanover found, Schachtner was hesitant about describing her daughter's health history, but said it includes an ongoing struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
'Amanda is a warrior'
Hanover worked as a certified public accountant and has served as a community organizer, focusing on school funding issues in Arizona, her mother said.
"I'm very proud of her. Very, very proud of her," Schachtner said of her daughter's work. "Amanda is a warrior. She's just a really good person. She's a really great person. She'd do anything for anybody."
Schachtner said she is now planning to travel to the Capital Region to be with her daughter.
The Niskayuna police investigation is ongoing, Stevens said, if only to try to answer the questions of how Hanover got there. Investigators hope to interview her when she is ready.
As for the story itself, and how investigators pieced it together, Stevens indicated he is amazed. He said he relayed that to McGuire and Hobson Saturday.
"I told them yesterday, I said you two should both go home very happy with yourselves and the day of work you put in," Stevens said, "because you really touched a lot of lives today on something so simple and just going the extra mile."