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Police say Bonney Lake teen was ‘aware of the massive effort’ to find her

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. -- Bonney Lake police say a 15-year-old girl's appearance had changed when she was found Sunday afternoon at a Pierce County bus stop.

The teenager had been missing for more than three weeks when a passerby spotted her on South Meridian in Puyallup and called police. She was reunited with her family a short time later.

"(The teen's) safe return could not have happened without everyone's hard work and dedication," Bonney Lake officer Daron Wolschleger said at a press conference Monday.

Q13 News is no longer identifying the girl now that she has been found safe.

Police and the US Marshals Service said the teen's appearance had changed since she was first reported missing.

Officer Wolschleger said the girl was "aware of the massive effort" to find her. They are still encouraging anyone with any information to call police as they continue the investigation.

Police said they wanted to stress the importance of monitoring your children's online and social media activity.

Authorities did not take questions during the brief news conference.

An emotional reunion

The girl's mother told Q13 News she finally got to hold her baby.

"Words can't express my gratitude," Lena Winters said.

Her daughter was reported missing on May 9. Later evidence uncovered by police led them to believe she was being sex-trafficked.

Three people had been arrested in connection with her disappearance.

Christopher Russell Fitzpatrick, 39, and Maria Ann Counts, 29, were arrested earlier and charged with kidnapping, raping, providing illegal drugs and sex-trafficking the teen.

A third person was picked up by officers late Wednesday night in Tacoma on suspicion of third-degree child rape. Law enforcement sources say the man told them the teen left his Tacoma home last week. Q13 News is not naming him because he has not been formally charged yet.