Girl at center of nationwide search found safe in Lake City

Mother accused of kidnapping arrested after 10-year-old found in SUV

Ariana Bozemen

After a nearly yearlong search for a kidnapped 10-year-old girl from Utah came to an end in North Florida, the child and her father will be reunited. 

Since last summer, local and federal authorities in Utah and Nevada had been looking for Ariana Bozemen. Police in Enoch, Utah, said the girl was kidnapped by her biological mother, 34-year-old Dawn Closson, after the girl's father was granted sole custody of the child. No one could locate the two until early Wednesday morning when deputies said the two were located at an interstate rest area near Lake City following an anonymous tip.

Adrian Bozemen, Ariana's father, told News4Jax that he got a call about 2 a.m. Wednesday from police, letting him know his daughter had been found. 

"He said, 'Adrian, we found her.' I said, 'What do you mean?'" Bozeman said. "I’m reaching for something not there, stumbling around the bedroom. My wife woke up next to me. She (was) looking at me with big eyes. I just couldn’t believe it."

Investigators in Utah said they contacted the Columbia County Sheriff's Office after they got a tip from an anonymous Florida resident who noticed something suspicious about the girl and her mother. Investigators said the tipster went online, saw news reports about the girl and called them. Columbia County deputies said they located the 10-year-old inside an SUV at a rest stop along Interstate 75 near Lake City.

"This is just a mindful and watchful resident that was able to help us bring this to justice and get the girl safely back," said Sgt. Isaac Akeroth, with the Enoch Police Department. 

Also inside the vehicle was Closson (pictured), Closson’s boyfriend and several other children, authorities said. 

Closson was arrested and booked into the Columbia County jail, online jail records show. Her boyfriend and the other children in the SUV were allowed to leave while Ariana was placed into protective custody by the Department of Children and Families. Her father said he chose to drive from Oklahoma, where he is stationed at an Air Force base, to Florida to pick her up so he can spend more time with her driving back home.

He plans on making that drive back home Thursday morning as soon as he is reunited with his daughter.

"I didn’t know what physical or mental state my daughter would be in, so I figure we would have no choice but to talk to each other. I get to learn more about her because she’s been gone for so long," Bozeman said. "I think I’m going to be cool about it. I think I’m going to break down. I think I’m going to be nervous. I’m going through all these different emotions. I want to be strong for her."

Currently, Closson is the only one facing charges but police in Utah said if they can prove her boyfriend was aware she illegally took the child, he could be facing charges, as well. 

Bozeman and his daughter should be reunited by Thursday morning. 

 "I can’t stop thinking about seeing her face and hearing her voice," he said.

About the Author:

Erik Avanier

Award-winning broadcast and multimedia journalist with 20 years experience.