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Missing woman returned to family
Alzheimer's patient slips away, drives to Liberty County
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A local woman suffering from Alzheimer’s was returned to her family after she went missing for several hours on Wednesday.

Martha Gooding, 76, left her son and daughter-in-law’s home around noon on Wednesday. She drove off in their Chevy pickup with her dog, Miss Triggs. She had not driven in a year.

“Have no idea,” Vicki Cone said as to why her mother-in-law left the house.

Cone explained that everyone was outside in the backyard, including Gooding. After awhile she got up, grabbed her beloved dog and went inside. Cone said she usually picks her dog up before going to lie down. So she just assumed that’s what she was about to do.

She did just the opposite.

Cone’s granddaughter went inside the house later and checked on her great-grandmother, only to find that she wasn’t in her bedroom.

She alerted the family and everyone began looking for Gooding. When they opened the door leading to the garage, they found their answer.

“When I opened that door, the car was gone and my heart skipped a beat,” Cone said.

Gooding apparently had taken the car keys out of Cone’s purse and fled.

The family was most afraid they would never find her or that she would harm someone while behind the wheel. Cone said that she had just gotten a full tank of gas that morning, so she knew that her mother-in-law could travel for a long time.

Gooding was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in March 2006. Last June, she came to live with her son and daughter-in-law. She cannot communicate beyond one-word answers.

The Cones called the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. Officers there activated a Mattie’s call to try to find Gooding. The call is an alert for missing elderly or disabled people enacted in Georgia in 2006, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Gooding ended up in Riceboro in Liberty County, about 45 miles away. Yet, the car had run out of gas. Cone can only imagine all the places she went before stopping there.

An elderly woman found her parked on the side of U.S. 17 about a mile from her home.

As she left her house to go to the store, the lady noticed Gooding sitting in the truck. She decided that if Gooding was still there when she returned she would check on her. Upon returning home, Gooding was still in the truck.

The lady was able to coax her out of the truck. Both she and her dog were fine and the truck was not damaged in any way. The elderly woman noticed a list of phone numbers the Cones kept in the truck. The Cone’s number was the first on the list.

The kind Samaritan called them, explaining that she had found an elderly lady in a red pickup truck. Upon the Cones’ arrival, Gooding was sitting on the porch with the lady while her husband stood in the road to help direct them to the house.

The couple had already fed her.

Cone said that Gooding has never done anything like this before. And she hopes it will never happen again.

“She won’t have access to any car keys,” she said.