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Missing city woman wasn't really missing

January 07, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

A Hagerstown woman who was believed missing in California returned home Monday evening, the victim of nothing more than a computer error and a nonworking calling card.

Eleanor Marie Barnhart, 70, who was reported missing last Friday, said she was never really missing at all. The Virginia Avenue resident was preregistered for a religious conference in California and checked into her room at about 10:30 p.m.

Conference organizers said Barnhart never went to her room, setting off a frantic effort by her family to contact her. When they could not, her husband, David, said he called the police.

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Then he waited.

"I didn't know what was going on for four days," he said.

All along, however, Barnhart was in her room at the Anaheim Hilton and at the conference. She was paired with another person who was attending the conference from England, but organizers mistakenly thought she was in another room.

"They said I wasn't there, but I was there," she said. "For a big hotel, it was a mess I was there the whole time. It's just one of those crazy things."

Barnhart said she tried calling home, but was told her calling card was invalid. She said she also tried calling collect with no luck.

"I was even going to fax a message, but I didn't know where to send it," she said.

She said she did not know she had been reported missing until she got back.

"It was all a mixed-up affair," said her relieved husband, who added that the family was going out to dinner to celebrate.

Barnhart said her family was particularly concerned because of her age and health. She said she has cancer.

The conference, held at the Anaheim Convention Center across the street from the hotel, drew about 6,000 people from 59 countries, Barnhart said. She said it was sponsored by Morris Cerullo, a television evangelist whom she said she has supported for the last 15 to 20 years.

"He's a very intelligent man, more so than anyone I've ever seen," she said. "He needs support for the work he's done."

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