Bahamas authorities find phone of Chicago woman who disappeared during yoga retreat

Chicago police issued a missing persons alert for Taylor Casey, 41, last seen June 19 at a yoga retreat in the Bahamas.

Authorities in the Bahamas said Tuesday the search for an American woman who disappeared during a yoga retreat is a top priority amid calls by friends and family members for U.S. intervention.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force said in a statement that it found the cellphone and other items belonging to Chicago resident Taylor Casey, 41, who was last seen at a Paradise Island yoga retreat June 19.

The device was found in nearby waters, the police force said, and her journal and other personal items were also discovered as part of its response after Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas reported Casey missing on June 20.

Casey's U.S. passport hasn't been found, the police force said.

It said it has deployed divers, drones, tracking dogs and Paradise Island-based officers in its ongoing search.

"This is a matter of priority for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, and we will continue to work arduously, doing all we can to locate Taylor and ensure her safe return to her family," it said.

Also Tuesday, Chicago police issued a missing persons alert for Casey, asking anyone who knows where she might be to get in touch.

Mom of Chicago woman missing from Bahamas yoga retreat details 'unsettling' visit to island

Close friends and family of Taylor Casey, a Chicago woman who disappeared while attending a yoga retreat in the Bahamas, slammed program leaders and investigators in a newly released statement. NBC Chicago’s Lexi Sutter reports.

Friends and family members had criticized Bahamas authorities and the retreat in a statement for what they characterized as a hush-hush probe more concerned with preserving the destination's idyllic image than with leaving no stone unturned.

“The consistent emphasis on not disturbing guests indicated that maintaining the tranquility and comfort of the tourism experience was being prioritized over addressing the critical issue of Taylor’s disappearance," the statement said.

The statement, issued on the Find Taylor Casey Facebook page, said that Casey's local missing persons flier couldn't be found at the Paradise Island yoga retreat, immediately outside it or at the closest police station and that many of her fellow travelers didn't know about the case.

Casey's mother, Colette Seymore, traveled to the Bahamas last week to get answers and was told by police not to speak to the retreat's guests about the case, according to the statement, released Monday.

Seymore and others traveling with her to help find Casey left the Bahamas early over safety concerns, the statement said.

The U.S. State Department this year urged American visitors to the Bahamas to “exercise increased caution.”

Nassau, which abuts Paradise Island, has been beset by murder, robbery and gang crime. The State Department has urged American travelers to “keep a low profile.”

Last week, Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas said in a statement that it notified police Casey was missing after she didn't show up for a yoga class on June 20 and that it has been "collaborating" with authorities.

Jonathan Goldbloom, a spokesperson for the retreat, said Tuesday it has been fully cooperative with police and family and encouraged guests to speak.

"All of us are distraught over Taylor’s disappearance, and our hearts go out to her family and friends," he said by email. "With that in mind, I wish to advise you that we did our best to provide Taylor’s mother and friends with support and comfort while they were in the Bahamas last week."

Friends and family members have asked U.S. officials to take over the case, but that may be unlikely given the Bahamas' sovereign jurisdiction. A State Department spokesperson said it has been working closely with Bahamian officials on the case. The FBI had no comment.

Casey traveled to the retreat — part of a global Sivananda Yoga organization with destinations in India, France, Austria, New York and California — to take lessons home in her pursuit of physical and mental well-being through yoga, friends and family said.

“I had to return home without her," Seymore said in Monday's statement. "This is every mother’s worst nightmare."

-- Ava Kelley and Juliette Arcodia contributed.

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