RUSKIN — They think they can find her.
Two sightings of Enid Grace Hendricks kept deputies optimistic Thursday that they could find the missing 75-year-old, even though she's having early symptoms of dementia and is unfamiliar with southeastern Hillsborough County.
As deputies intensified their search Thursday for Hendricks, who goes by Grace, her distraught family pleaded for her safe return.
"Please, please, Grace," said her husband, Robert, his voice shaking during a morning news conference. "Please come home."
The couple arrived in Ruskin from England late Tuesday night, and stayed with their niece, Johannie Stanley, at her home in the stuccoed RiverBend subdivision. They planned to spend three weeks in Florida visiting Stanley's mother, who is in a nursing home.
She was reported missing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, though the family believes she left the house about 5:30 a.m. Stanley told investigators that's when she remembered hearing a door open.
She checked on her children but didn't think to peek in on her aunt and uncle.
Nearly six hours later, a man came across Hendricks in a tomato field about 2 miles north of Stanley's home at 2513 Yukon Cliff Drive, said Hillsborough sheriff's Maj. John Marsicano.
The man, referred to only as a citizen, described Hendricks exactly as her family had. Wearing her nightgown and a light-colored housecoat, she had on slippers and a short auburn wig. At 5 feet 4, she is described as slender and has a thick Jamaican accent. She and her husband are originally from Jamaica.
The man offered to help her, but she declined and kept saying that she had to get back to a particular street. He watched her wander away, Marsicano said.
Four hours later, another resident spotted Hendricks at Sun Point Plaza, a shopping center about a half-mile south of the tomato field. She has not been seen since then.
Marsicano said divers surfaced empty-handed Wednesday after searching a large pond behind Stanley's home. A day later crews continued to comb wooded areas near the subdivision and planned to expand their search to the north.
"She's in good physical health," Marsicano said. "And because she is moving, that means she's still capable of walking. We know she's somewhere."
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 661-2454.