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Deputies find missing Tampa woman alive in Punta Gorda

Three nights after she inexplicably abandoned her car in a Punta Gorda mobile home park, a 27-year-old Tampa woman was found alive late Sunday in nearby dense woods.

A helicopter crew using heat-seeking technology located Ellen Anne Quinlan in brush just south of the mobile home park.

Authorities said she was "in good condition." They took her to Charlotte Regional Medical Center in Punta Gorda.

The investigation began Friday night after deputies found Quinlan's abandoned Toyota Camry parked on a dead-end street near the Lazy Lagoons mobile home park. The driver's side window was down, with Quinlan's purse and keys left inside the car.

Family members last saw Quinlan on Thursday in her parents' South Tampa home. She left her cellphone there.

Her parents, Gerard and Anne Quinlan, were in Punta Gorda over the weekend helping look for their daughter. They told authorities their daughter had no reason to be in Punta Gorda and had not taken needed medication for about a week.

A Quinlan family spokesman declined to comment Sunday to a Tampa Bay Times reporter.

Focusing on the park and nearby canals over the weekend, deputies patrolled waterways in a boat equipped with special sonar. They canvassed nearby neighborhoods and initiated reverse-911 calls to homes and scoured the area with canine units. They responded to multiple tips throughout the weekend, but none had panned out as the sun set on Sunday.

Then, they found her just before 9:30 p.m.

Sensors on the helicopter showed someone, later identified as Quinlan, standing by a tree in heavy brush south of the Lazy Lagoon Mobile Home Park off U.S. 17, northeast of Punta Gorda.

Deputies had to cut a path into the overgrowth to get to her. Authorities said she was talking; what she said is not yet known.

A member of the Junior League of Tampa, Quinlan once competed for the title of queen of Gasparilla. She attended Tampa Preparatory School and later graduated from Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

Times staff writer Amy Scherzer contributed to this report.