HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- A Holland woman, missing since Valentines Day, has now been spotted in New Mexico. Authorities spotted the vehicle of Emelene Van Dyke in Alamagordo on Sunday.
The discovery supports the theory that Van Dyke likely left on her own.
In the nearly four-week hunt for Van Dyke, Holland Police Captain Jack Dykstra's lead detective and a few other officers have poured more than 80 hours of time into her case. Even more when you count officers looking for her car when on patrol.
So Dykstra says he was very surprised when he got the email that her Hyundai Accent was spotted in New Mexico.
"I was literally sitting on my coach at home and got the email and just couldn't believe it," he said.
An automated camera system near Alamagordo scanned her license plate. Dykstra says it's technology found mostly in bigger cities, and it's the first time it's helped spot a missing person's vehicle for his department.
He says he didn't have any other leads she was in New Mexico, and says he never would have considered looking there.
Van Dkye was spotted alone, which clears up more doubt for Holland Police, who already believe she may have left at her own will. Last week they found camping equipment missing from her home.
"It kind of lowers our concern for her wellbeing," said Dykstra.
How do they decide how serious a case like Van Dyke's is, and when to stop pouring resources into it?
"Until we make contact with her in some way, whether it's a law enforcement office that stops her and says, 'you're missing out of Michigan, what's going on?'" he said.
Dystra says his department usually follows this criteria when pursuing a missing person or potential runaway case:
The history of the person, is it out of character for he or she to leave, has it happened before, and is there any circumstances that lead police to believe the situation is suspicious.
"So there's no given time period. I think that's sometimes a myth," he said.
Holland Police define a missing person as an an adult. Otherwise, if they are under 18-years-old, in most cases, Dykstra says they are classified as a runaway.