UPDATE: Ames child found safe after four-month search

A 6-year-old girl from Ames has been located safe after a four-month long missing child search by authorities.

According to Ames Police Sergeant Amber Christian, now 6-year-old Avery Lydia Doherty was found Wednesday on Peaks Island off the coast of Portland, Maine.

Christian added that Avery’s mother, 41-year-old Esther Bender, has been criminally charged with Violation of Custodial Order, a serious misdemeanor.

In December, the Ames Police Department released information to the public regarding the missing child in hopes of finding leads into Avery and her mom’s whereabouts.

Bender is said to have previously been a custodial parent, but that is not currently the case.

According to court documents, an Emergency Custody Order was issued by a judge in October. That order indicates that Avery’s father, Brandon Doherty of Missouri, received a letter from Ames Christian School on October 25 stating that Avery was “withdrawn from school on October 13” and that “no request for records has been received for a new school”.

Court documents further claim that Doherty followed up at Bender’s home in Ames on October 26 to find that Bender and Avery had “moved out”.

“We have no way of knowing [if Avery is in danger],” Christian told StoryCounty.News in December. “Her mother has not had any communication with anybody from law enforcement. She has not had any communication with her family. That is obviously concerning to us. The only way we can be certain about Avery’s welfare is to see her in person.”

Ames PD was assisted by the FBI, Story County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police, and Portland (ME) Police Department in the investigation.

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