Elderly woman's body found in retention pond

Published On: Feb 17 2014 09:05:13 AM EST
Updated On: Feb 17 2014 06:39:19 PM EST

85-year-old Twila Joyner was reported missing a day earlier. We were told Joyner suffers from Alzheimer's. It's believed she wandered from her home in St. Johns to a retention pond on Cunningham Estates Road in Fruit Cove. The pond is less than a mile from her home.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of an elderly woman after remains believed to be hers were found in a pond Monday morning.

Deputies concluded the search for Twila Joyner in the northwest district of St. Johns County just before 10 a.m.

During the search, remains of a white woman were found in a retention pond off Cunningham Estates Road, in the area of Joyner's disappearance.

"We're taking our time. We're going to treat it as a crime scene," Sgt. Catherine Payne said. "It is an active death investigation. Nothing overt at this point in time to say that there is any foul play."

Holly Fagan said she was among the many volunteers who had searched for Joyner. She said she woke up Monday to find deputies at the retention pond in her backyard, saying they found what they believe to be Joyner's body.

"It just breaks my heart that I didn't find her or I didn't see her," Fagan said. "It's heartbreaking."

Joyner, 85, was last seen going to bed at 7 p.m. Saturday at her home on Pitch Pine Avenue off State Road 13.

Deputies said Joyner had Alzheimer's disease and was known to wander the area.

Officials from the Alzheimer's Association said about 140,000 people in north and central Florida suffer from Alzheimer's or some form of dementia, and wandering away is very common. The key is keeping your loved ones safe.

Some valuable tips for caregivers to know include:

  • Place locks on doors up high or out of sight.
  • Don't leave car keys where they can be easily picked up.
  • Observe your loved one and know what time of day they're most likely to wander away.

Most importantly, have a plan in motion.

"Realizing that six out of 10 people with dementia will wander, it's not a question of whether or not they've done it before, it's just a question of when they will do it, most likely," said Kay Redington, CEO of the Alzheimer's Association. "Be cognizant of it, make plans in advance in preventing a person from wandering outside of the home. Then make a plan in case the worst happens."

For Fagan, who had a loved one suffer from the same condition, her thoughts are with Joyner's family.

"It's really hard to see your loved ones go through," Fagan said. "It's like having a child again. It's just heartbreaking."

There are also some very good programs to keep in mind if you have a loved one who may suffer from some form of dementia.

One program with the Alzheimer's Association called Medic Alert + Safe Return offers a piece of jewelry with a nationwide toll free number that can help reunite the person with their family.

To learn more about MedicAlert + Safe Return, call the Alzheimer's Association at 1-800-272-3900 or go to www.alz.org.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office has a program called Safe Trak, a tracking device worn  on the wrist or the ankle that allows deputies to track a person within a two-mile radius.

For more information on the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office's Safe Trak, click here.

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