March 5, 2009
Tim Pratt -
STARKVILLE -- It''s been nearly 16 months since Priscilla Rogers woke up one morning, packed herself an overnight bag and walked out of her West Main Street home in Starkville.
Her mother, Minnie Rogers, hasn''t seen her since.
In the time that''s passed since Nov. 6, 2007, when Priscilla Rogers left the house she shared with her mother and sister, the Rogers family has been on a roller-coaster ride of emotion, feeling everything from hope and optimism to frustration and fear. All the while, they''ve never known if Priscilla, who is 45 and schizophrenic, was alive or dead.
Minnie Rogers has spent a lot of time praying since Priscilla disappeared in November 2007, and says she never lost faith she would one day speak to her daughter again. Last week, Minnie''s prayers finally were answered.
The phone rang in the Rogers household and, when Minnie answered, she heard a very familiar voice on the other end of the line: It was Priscilla, calling from Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Va.
Minnie can''t help but smile as she recalls hearing her daughter''s voice for the first time in more than a year. And she laughs when recollecting how she jumped for joy when she realized it was Priscilla on the other end of the line.
"I just said to her, ''Priscilla, I''ve been crying, I''ve been praying, and God has finally answered my prayers,''" Minnie said Wednesday morning, a big smile on her face.
Although the Rogers family is glad to know Priscilla is alive, what is still unclear is how she got to Virginia.
The morning of Nov. 6, 2007, Minnie awoke just like it was any other day. Only this time, she discovered Priscilla already had left the house.
Priscilla normally left in the morning to go to a nearby convenience store, so, at first, Minnie wasn''t worried. Hours later, when Priscilla still had not returned, Minnie called the Starkville Police Department.
Minnie believes Priscilla''s schizophrenia got the best of her because of a "mix-up" in treatment at Community Counseling Services in Starkville.
During the evening hours of Nov. 6, 2007, Minnie got a phone call from a friend in West Point, who said he had just seen Priscilla. The friend said he spoke with Priscilla and the woman planned to travel to Tupelo, where she intended to board a bus to Virginia. It is unclear why she wanted to travel to Virginia.
"It just started from there," Minnie said. "She just kept going and I haven''t seen her since."
There were other reported sightings of Priscilla, as well, but Minnie still isn''t sure exactly how her daughter made it halfway across the country. Priscilla didn''t even have any identification when she left, Minnie said.
Eventually, Priscilla was arrested on a beach in Virginia, Minnie said, and without identification, she was put in jail. She told police she was an immigrant, Minnie said, and didn''t know her real name.
Priscilla was in jail in Virginia for six months before being sent to Eastern State Hospital -- a mental health facility in Williamsburg. She has been in the hospital since December under the name Esta Colums.
After months of treatment, Priscilla made progress in recent weeks. And just last week she was able to give hospital officials her true identity. Then she called her mother.
The news about Priscilla has spread quickly through Starkville and Minnie says her phone has been ringing off the hook.
"People have been calling me from everywhere," Minnie said. "They''re praising God; they''re shouting. It really is wonderful how many people have prayed for me and prayed for Priscilla. I just thank God and my family and my church family for all their support."
Minnie has talked with Priscilla on a daily basis since the first phone call last Wednesday. She said her daughter sounds "good" and upbeat.
"She sounds just like the old Priscilla," Minnie said.
Minnie would like to see Priscilla transfer to a similar hospital or facility in Mississippi, but said Priscilla is content for now to remain in Virginia. Minnie said she is still in talks with Eastern State officials, and no decisions have been made on whether or not Priscilla will return to Mississippi.