Guillermina Lopez Leon

Photo courtesy of the Pima County Sheriff's Department

Over the weekend an east-side neighborhood watch group did what experienced search teams on the ground, in the air, on horseback and with canines couldn’t do.

They found an elderly woman who had wandered away from her assisted living home.

Guillermina Lopez Leon, 71, had been at a care facility in the 10500 block of East Roger Road near East Catalina Highway and North Houghton Road for just a day when she was reported missing at about 8:20 p.m. Saturday. She’d disappeared about an hour earlier and when facility staffers couldn’t find her they called 911, said Deputy Tom Peine, spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. Leon is diabetic and has dementia.

Deputies set up a command post to organize the search operation. Called into service were the Sheriff’s Department search plane, deputies with the Search and Rescue Unit, volunteers from the Southern Arizona Rescue Association, canines and handlers from Southwest Rescue Dogs and volunteers with Southern Arizona Mounted Search and Rescue.

The search was suspended in the early morning hours and resumed again at 8 a.m. Sunday with additional help from Border Patrol’s BORSTAR K-9 Unit, the Arizona Department of Corrections who sent dogs and two helicopters with Customs and Border Protection, Peine said.

Members of a neighborhood watch group who had seen reports about the missing woman activated their telephone chain and asked members to check their yards and properties. A member of the neighborhood watch found Leon in the desert behind her house just before noon Sunday.

She was lying on the ground and about a third of a mile from the care facility and taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

Because Leon was wearing a gray sweater and pants and had been covered with mesquite leaves overnight, members of the air search might not have seen her during sweeps over the area, Peine said.

One month earlier, on Nov. 8, Leon wandered away from a different care home and found hours later by a security guard working in the area.