The father of a missing college student said his daughter would have never run away and left her son, but police in Pennsylvania consider her a wanted person and have issued a warrant for her arrest.
Michelle McMullen, a 27-year-old student from Harrisburg, Pa., has been missing since Sept. 28, when she left her hometown to return to Grambling State University in Louisiana.
Police in Hagerstown, Md., found McMullen's 2002 Honda Accord on Wednesday with her cell phone, wallet and identification inside, but say there's no indication that her disappearance involves foul play.
Her father, Michael McMullen, is convinced that his daughter was abducted and said he is frustrated and angry that police and the media are focusing on a warrant for his daughter's arrest out of Susquehanna Township, Pa.
Michelle McMullen faces charges of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception and two counts of forgery in connection with the disappearance of $2,000 from a church where she worked as an administrator for two years. The money was reported missing after an audit by the Progress Emmanuel Presbyterian Church.
"We're firmly believing one thing has absolutely nothing to do with another," Michael McMullen told ABCNews.com today.
But Susquehanna Township Police Capt. Richard Pastucka said Michelle McMullen's listing on a national crime database was changed from missing person to wanted person yesterday.
Hard-Working Student, Mother
Michael McMullen said that his family is a close-knit one and that if his daughter needed $2,000 she could have gotten it from her parents.
"This girl is not going to walk away from life for $2,000," he said.
Michelle, he said, was working toward a better life for herself and her beloved son.
After completing two years of online college courses she moved to Grambling, La., to complete her business degree with two years of required on-campus classes at Grambling State.
Her father said that being a full-time student and working full-time at a local McDonald's made it difficult to arrange proper child care for 6-year-old son Jayden, whose father lives in Pennsylvania.
Mother Disappears During Car Trip
When the young mother discovered she had the weekend of Sept. 27-28 off from work, she took Jayden to a local carnival and then drove with him up to Harrisburg, where she was going to leave him in the care of his father and her parents, Michael and the Rev. Lillie McMullen.
Michael McMullen said his daughter, after driving through the night Saturday, dropped Jayden off with her friend Sunday evening and then left an hour later to return to Louisiana. He and his wife didn't even know she was in Harrisburg, he said, or they never would have let her leave without resting.
"She said she would sleep along the way," Michael McMullen said, recounting a conversation his daughter had with her friend. "She had a pillow and a few things in the car."
That friend called the McMullens on Monday to let them know that she had Jayden. She said Michelle had called around 9 p.m. Sunday night to say good night to Jayden and told her friend, "I will give you a call when I'm a little further down the road," according to Michael McMullen. That was the last anyone heard from her.
When no one had heard from her by Monday night they became worried. Michael McMullen said they called police Tuesday morning and then again around noon on Wednesday after waiting the requisite 72 hours to file a missing persons report.
Michael McMullen said police didn't do much until that following Saturday and they later apologized to the family, noting that they had been busy and the detective that handles such cases had been on vacation.
Messages left with the Harrisburg police chief and mayor were not immediately returned Friday.
Few Clues in the Car
The abandoned car was reported to the Washington Sheriff's Office in Maryland after it had sat on an access road outside the Volvo Powertrain plant, a couple of blocks off I-81, for about a week. Hagerstown is about 70 miles west of Washington, D.C., and a little more than an hour drive from Harrisburg.
Washington Sheriff's Lt. Mark Knight said it was not unusual for cars to be parked in that area, so police were only called after security guards noticed it hadn't moved in several days. A bloodhound and "air-scent" dogs trained to sniff out cadavers were called to the scene, but they found nothing.
Though her father is certain his daughter is in danger, Knight said police found no blood or other evidence that she met with foul play.
As for her cell phone and wallet being in the car, he said, "I don't know what that actually tells us."
But it speaks volumes for her family. Michelle, her father said, is "very conscientious" and has never run away from her problems.
"The people here, her hometown … they know one thing is for certain, she would have not walked away from her son," he said.
All Jayden knows is that his mother isn't talking to him.
"And he's very upset," Michael McMullen said. "He wants to know why."