Romance Novelist Faleena Hopkins, Who Disappeared After Wyoming Arrest, Found Safe

Romance novelist Faleena Hopkins has been located safe and sound after disappearing for more than two weeks following a high-speed chase through Grand Teton National Park and a weekend in jail in Wyoming.

Jake Nichols

February 18, 20234 min read

Faleena Hopkins
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Romance novelist Faleena Hopkins has been located safe and sound after disappearing for more than two weeks following a high-speed chase through Grand Teton National Park and a weekend in jail in Wyoming.

Lt. Russ Ruschill with the Jackson Police Department, which was leading the search for Hopkins, declined to elaborate about how or where Hopkins eventually turned up.

After leaving Jackson, Wyoming, the 52-year-old author, who lives in Seattle, Washington, landed briefly in Salt Lake City before then traveling on to Lihue, Kauai County, Hawaii, Ruschill said, adding the missing person case is officially closed.

Reported Missing

Hopkins was reported missing following a bizarre chain of events that found her speeding through Grand Teton National Park on Jan. 27.

She was arrested on six criminal charges, including suspicion of fleeing/attempting to elude police officers.

She spent that weekend in the Teton County Jail before being released the morning of Jan. 30 on a personal recognizance bond with instructions to return for a Feb. 28 arraignment hearing.

Where She Went

When Hopkins walked out of the Teton County Detention Center, she left behind her car, her dog and her cellphone. 

At the urging of family, police opened a missing persons file on Hopkins, and she became the subject of a multi-jurisdiction investigation with cooperation between authorities in Wyoming, Washington, Utah and California.

Jackson detectives eventually discovered video footage of Hopkins boarding a Delta flight bound for Salt Lake.

“In the footage, we noticed her carrying a Verizon shopping bag. We showed Miss Hopkins photo to the employees at the store and asked if they’d remember seeing her buy a new phone. Sure enough, they had,” Ruschill said.

By the time Jackson detectives began pinging that phone earlier this week, it was evident Hopkins was in Hawaii. 


With time running out on how long police could continue to track Hopkins whereabouts via her cell phone, word came late Friday that the missing author had been contacted by authorities and was considered safe and in no apparent danger.

Ruschill would not speculate as to why Hopkins remained elusive and out of touch with her family members, including her sister Shannon Maureen, but he said there was concern for her welfare on all sides.

“It’s not a crime for an adult to go on a walkabout of sorts. But there is language in the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) missing person protocol that state something about if a person might be considered a potential harm to themselves or others,” Ruschill said. “You have to balance the importance of checking on her welfare with her right to move around the planet without interference.”

The Timeline

Prior to the chase, Hopkins got her vehicle stuck in snow in an unplowed visitor area just south of the south entrant to Yellowstone National Park.

After calling 911 at 9:52 a.m., Hopkins was pulled safely from her predicament at Flagg Ranch and cited for driving a wheeled vehicle on a path meant exclusively for snowmobiles, according to court records and National Park rangers.

An hour later and 21 miles down the highway, Hopkins was approached by a Grand Teton National Park ranger after he spotted her vehicle parked in the middle of the road.

According to GTNP spokesperson Valerie Gohlke, Hopkins fled when the ranger turned on his emergency lights to stop and check on her. A chase ensued, reaching speeds up to 90 mph at one point. 

Spike strips were employed 18 miles south at Glacier View turnout on U.S. Highway 191. Hopkins hit those and managed to continue another four miles before she pulled over near Moose Junction.

Family Thankful

While Hopkins probably owes a bit of explanation to her family, friends and fans around the globe, she is at least unharmed. Her family was relieved to hear the news and asked for privacy while they work through this episode.

“Words cannot describe the relief we feel to have found Faleena,” Maureen told Cowboy State Daily. “We are asking everyone for privacy and sensitivity as we take the next steps. 

“Thank you to everyone who has positively contributed to our efforts to locate her.”

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Jake Nichols

Features Reporter