Update: Missing GHS student found in apartment complex

Published: Friday, June 1, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.

A missing Gainesville High School student who was the subject of a media blitz Thursday was found Friday afternoon in the apartment of a friend, where she had stayed for a week without a trace because she was upset with her family.

Nate Ellis, a Gainesville police resource officer at GHS, found Marissa DeVito, 16, after receiving information from an anonymous tipster regarding her possible location.

Ellis said Marissa told him she hid because of family problems and knew of the extensive search for her in Gainesville and in Fort Myers, where she had recently lived.

"She was apologetic with me," Ellis said. "She said she was sorry and worried about how her dad would react. She was well aware that we were looking for her."

Marissa, the daughter of GPD officer James DeVito, was last seen May 25 at GHS. She had not been in contact with anyone since then, police said.

James DeVito said Thursday that Marissa may have been upset that she could not go to Fort Myers over the Memorial Day weekend to visit her boyfriend and her mother. Marissa had recently moved to Gainesville with her father and stepmother.

Police initially treated the case as a runaway investigation. But as days passed, police became concerned that she may have been the victim of a crime.

Instead, Marissa was holed up in the apartment of Jordan Keeter, a GHS senior about to graduate. Ellis said Keeter had his own apartment in the area near Archer Road and Southwest 34th Street.

A person who knew about the case passed a note in a restaurant to an Alachua County sheriff's deputy with information that Marissa was possibly with Keeter. The information eventually reached Ellis, who confirmed Keeter was a GHS student and went to the apartment.

"I knocked on the door and kind of stood away. Once he opened the door, I approached the door and he tried to close it pretty quick but he couldn't. We talked in the breezeway and he admitted she was inside," Ellis said. "She said the main issue was problems at home with her father. She didn't go into detail about that."

Ellis said Marissa told him that she wanted a place to stay away from her home and that Keeter took her to his apartment after school on May 25.

Sgt. Ray Barber said Marissa was debriefed Friday afternoon to make sure she was not coerced or forced to stay at the apartment. He said it appears she was able to come and go of her own free will.

Barber said one detective spent three full days investigating the disappearance while school resource officers spent days talking with students. Crime analysts and others also worked the case, Barber said.

Ellis said Marissa was sitting in his patrol car when her father arrived. They spoke quietly, Ellis added.

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