Bill Barnes flew to New York from Florida last week to tape a talk show about missing children following the disappearance of his 17-year-old daughter.
The girl's family now says she also was in New York, at Beth Israel Medical Center, suffering from amnesia."I never imagined her being there, nor was I looking for her while we were riding around," Barnes said.
Cheryl Ann Barnes was identified Wednesday after a nurse saw her picture on television, the family said. The girl had been admitted to the hospital as Jane Doe on Jan. 18, the day her car was towed from near the Empire State Building. She reportedly had been found sitting in a city snowdrift.
On Wednesday night, the hospital issued a statement saying it "is cooperating fully with the FBI and the New York City Police Department to determine whether or not a patient at the Beth Israel Medical Center is a missing person."
An unidentified police source was quoted in Thursday's Daily News as saying the case was being treated as a runaway. The source said the young woman was wearing a bullet-proof vest when she was found.
Investigators now want to know how she got to New York after disappearing from her hometown of Bushnell, about 50 miles east of Orlando, on Jan. 3. Foremost will be the question of whether she was abducted or ran away from home, Sumter County Sheriff's Lt. Gary Brannen said.
"Maybe her mental state now was part of her mental state before she disappeared," Brannen said. "The discovery does weaken the abduction possibility."
Bill Barnes Sr., the girl's grandfather, was quoted as saying in Thursday's New York Daily News and New York Post that a month before her disappearance, her father married one of her best friends, who is 18.
Cheryl Ann "might have been a little bit embarrassed, but I think she came to terms with it," he told the Post.
Cheryl Ann vanished from Bushnell after withdrawing $100 from her bank account.
Searchers got their first break Tuesday, when her car was found in a New York City tow pound lot.
The FBI, which examined the car, said there was no sign of foul play. A gym bag in the car was full of clothes.
A nurse at Beth Israel saw the newscast about the car Wednesday, recognized her patient, and told the girl she thought she knew who she was, the family said.