BRASILIA, Brazil — The parents of a 17-year-old American exchange student who went missing last weekend thanked Brazilian authorities Friday and said they were relieved with the case's "good ending."
Steve and Stephanie Martin arrived in Brasilia Friday morning to reunite with their daughter, Mykensie, a day after she was found safe in northeastern Brazil following an intense three-day search by authorities across the country.
"We are just happy that we are here in Brazil and that this was a good ending," Steve told reporters shortly after arriving in the nation's capital with his wife.
They said they wanted to show their gratitude to the Brazilians who helped find Mykensie unharmed just four days after she disappeared from the town where she was staying in central Brazil.
"We want to thank the authorities and the media," Steve said. "It's a heartfelt thank you for what you have done ... for all the attention you gave to this."
"We know she's been in care of such good people," said Stephanie, holding back tears. "I'm so thankful that this ended happily."
Stephanie made reference to the "not-so-happy case" of Natalee Holloway, an 18-year-old Alabama teen who is still missing after being last seen in Aruba on May 30.
During their brief statement, the parents said they still did not know what prompted Mykensie to flee her host city of Carmo do Paranaiba in the central state of Minas Gerais and travel to northeastern Brazil.
Mykensie told local media in Salvador that "It was all very complicated," but did not elaborate.
"It's not that I want to go back to the U.S. because I love Brazil. Everything was perfect," she said. "I'd rather stay here, but now that I made this decision, I know I have to, you know."
Mykensie and her parents met privately later in Brasilia, U.S. Embassy spokesman Wesley Carrington said, adding they will return to their hometown in Bend, Ore., on Saturday.
Mykensie showed up Thursday at a police station in the coastal city of Salvador, 690 miles northeast of Brazil's capital, Brazilian federal police said.
She was accompanied to the police station by a young Brazilian man from Salvador identified as Marcos Alves, a waiter at a beach side restaurant. The two arrived holding hands and stayed arm-in-arm at the police station as a swarm of photographers snapped pictures.
Before showing up in Salvador, Mykensie was last seen Sunday evening hitchhiking in Unai, 80 miles from Brasilia.
The exchange student left her host city on Sunday to travel 40 miles by bus to Patos de Minas, where she regularly attended LDS church services.
Authorities said she stayed at a small hotel in Brasilia on Sunday night and talked with hotel workers about places to visit in Brazil.
Mykensie has been in Brazil since July, and still had about nine months left in her exchange student program.