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Woman missing 8 days in dense forest found sitting on tree stump singing "Amazing Grace," family says

Simplicity, Va. — A 69-year-old Virginia woman who went missing last week was found alive Monday in a dense pine forest less than a mile from her home, the local sheriff announced.

The search for Aletha Gee Walton began May 17, when her family discovered she was missing and alerted authorities, Prince Edward County Sheriff's Office said in a statement posted online. Walton was last seen at her home in the Simplicity area two days earlier, officials said.

Search and rescue organizations and agencies from around the state joined the search for Walton and she was found about 0.8 miles from her home in a densely wooded pine forest with a thick underbrush on Monday morning, eight days after she was last seen, the sheriff's office said. Walton was assessed by medical personnel immediately and taken to a hospital for further evaluation.

Authorities didn't give additional details about her condition or say why she was in the woods in the first place.

Aletha Gee Walton in undated family photo provided by Prince Edward County Sheriff's Office Prince Edward County (Virginia) Sheriff's Office

"This has been incredibly challenging, but we are thrilled to be able to provide the family the best possible outcome," Sheriff Tony Epps said in a statement. "I have spoken with the family and they relayed their appreciation to everyone involved in the search for their loved one."

"Thank Jesus. It was a big blessing, it really was," Rita Allen, a friend, told CBS Richmond, Virginia affiliate WTVR.

"At first, I didn't know what to think, I was thinking of the worst. But when they said she was okay, I was so thankful, so thankful," Deidra Knight, Walton's niece told the station.

Walton's family said she suffers from the early stages of dementia.

"We just broke down and cried, all of us. We didn't know what to think. We thought somebody had kidnapped her or whatever. We didn't know what had happened," said Sandra Knight, Walton's sister.

Gone from her home for more than a week in extreme heat and stormy weather, her family said she was sitting on a stump and singing Amazing Grace when she was discovered.

"Amazing Grace. God was with her the whole time," Sandra said.

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