Missing Hamburg woman, daughter found at mom's in Fla.

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Authorities used cell phone tracking technology to find Amanda Elizabeth Hayward and her 7-year-old daughter at the home of the woman's mother, hidden down a long dirt driveway in a coastal town north of Tampa.

Amanda Elizabeth Hayward was last seen leaving her Hamburg Township residence in the area of Chilson and Bishop Lake roads at 3 a.m. May 10, 2016. She left the location with her 7-year old daughter, Sapphire Elizabeth Palmer.

The Hamburg Township residents had been missing more than two days and Michigan authorities feared Hayward was armed, unraveling from paranoid delusions, and traveling with a registered sex offender.

That ex-convict, 64-year-old acquaintance Douglas Stanko, inadvertently led law enforcement to Hayward, according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction over the Homosassa, Fla., area where the two were found.

"Authorities pinged sex offender Stanko’s phone and it was found to be in the Homosassa area, near West Holiday Street, where Amanda's mother lives," officials said in a statement.

The FBI contacted local law enforcement around 3:30 p.m. Thursday and relayed that Hayward's "mental state was unsteady and had deteriorated in the last week or so," according to the statement.

Officers converged around 6 p.m. upon the home situated at the end of a driveway and out of sight from the roadway.

"Upon arriving at the residence, contact was made with Hayward and Sapphire," officials said. "Detectives explained the purpose of being at the residence. Everyone at the residence was cooperative."

The statement did not elaborate on who else was present at the home, and officials at the sheriff's office were not immediately available Friday afternoon for further comment.

Douglas Steven Stanko

But Stanko had slipped from their grasp, they said.

"Stanko was not at the residence and was said to be en route back to Michigan," officials said. Stanko's whereabouts were unknown Friday afternoon.

Hayward and Sapphire's safe recovery came after more than two days of investigation, including an Amber Alert issued early Thursday afternoon.

Hayward may have been suffering extreme paranoia around 3 a.m. Tuesday when she took Sapphire from bed and fled their home near Chilson and Bishop Lake in Hamburg Township, Hamburg Police Chief Rick Duffany said Thursday.

“Her father had gone public with that,” Duffany said of Hayward’s mental state. “In his words, she was having an episode of paranoia and thought she was being tracked or bugged.

“Right before she left, she took all the phones and anything electronic and threw it in a tub of water.”

Hayward’s purse with her credit cards, cash and other belongings was found around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday on the side of the road several miles away from her residence. Police believe she tossed the items.

“For whatever reason she thought the purse contained something that was bugged,” Duffany said.

Hayward was “paranoid, delusional and may be armed with a 9 mm Hi Point Semi-Auto handgun,” officials said in the initial Amber Alert missing child post.

“We were informed by her father that she had recently purchased the gun,” Duffany said Thursday. “In the search of her room and her house and everything, the gun was unable to be located.”

Hayward's gun was not in her possession when she was found, according to Florida authorities.

"Her father in Michigan verified the gun was still in Michigan," Citrus County officials said.

Authorities searching for the pair got their break around 6 p.m. Wednesday, when Hayward's abandoned vehicle was located in Ypsilanti along with evidence the two were with Stanko.

The sex offender's roommate told police he had seen Hayward and Sapphire leave with Stanko in his vehicle, Duffany said.

Stanko, of Ypsilanti, has convictions for second-degree criminal sexual conduct against a person under 13 years old and second-degree criminal sexual conduct in a relationship, according to the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.

Hayward and her daughter appeared to be in good physical health when found, according to Hamburg Police. Sapphire was taken into protective custody by Florida Child Protective Services pursuant to a court order. The Amber Alert was cancelled and a hearing was scheduled in Michigan for Friday morning, Florida officials said. The results of that hearing were not immediately available.

Hayward and Sapphire remained in Florida Friday.

"Amanda was interviewed and it was determined she did not meet Baker Act criteria," Florida officials said.

The Baker Act in Florida allows for the involuntary institutionalization of certain individuals.

“This was a great team effort by everyone involved, and a great example of working with other agencies to make sure Sapphire was found safe and sound,” Citrus County Sgt. Steve Casada said. “We’re thankful we were able to help bring this serious situation to a peaceful resolution.”

Anyone with further information about the case is asked to call the Hamburg Township Police Department at (810) 231-9391.

hfournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier

Detroit News Staff Writers Mark Hicks and George Hunter contributed.