Teen girl found a year after vanishing, in a case leaving locals "sick to their stomach".

On May 23, 2016, Hailey Burns, then just 16 years old, walked out of her home in North Carolina and vanished.

Her mother had checked all the doors the night before, ensuring they were locked. But when Hailey’s family went to wake her for school, she was gone.

The front door to the family’s home was wide open.

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Hailey Burns went missing on May 23, 2016. Image via Facebook.

"It was the worst feeling you could ever imagine. You feel completely out of control. You don't know what to do," her father, Tony Burns, told WCNC News in the wake of her disappearance.

"You just panic."

A nationwide search for Hailey began, as her family revealed she had Asperger's Syndrome and had left home without any of her medication.

Despite the family's attempts to limit the teen's use of computers, searches revealed she had been speaking to strangers online.

Investigators believed she had left home to meet a person she had met via social media.

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Investigators believed Hailey had left home after meeting a stranger online. Image via Facebook.

More than a year later, Hailey - now 17 - has been found and returned to her family.

According to Fox 5 Atlanta, Hailey was found at the home of a 31-year-old man two states away in Georgia by the FBI.

The man, Michael Ren Wysolovski, was taken into custody and is facing a number of state charges, according to the FBI, including aggravated sodomy, cruelty to children and deprivation, interference with custody, and false imprisonment.

LISTEN: What it's like when a loved one goes missing. Loren O'Keeffe shares her story. (Post continues after podcast.)

Neighbours said they were shocked to discover the "quiet couple" they thought they had been living near had actually been something far more sinister.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," next-door neighbour Jennifer Elmore told Fox 5 Atlanta.

"[You] never hear about anything bad happening [in this town], but I guess things can happen anywhere...I don't really know how to feel about it, except I'm glad that she's safe now," another neighbour, Jennifer Cabrera, said.

Hailey's family have shared their relief at having her back home safely on social media.

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Hailey was reunited with her family over the weekend. Image via Facebook.

"I woke up this morning at about 4am. I walked into my daughter's room like I have for over a year but this time she was there in her bed safe and sound," her father wrote on Facebook.

"Though tired from an amazing 48 hours where we helped lead the authorities to where my daughter was, I woke up today crying and grateful again for the miracle that has happened in our lives.

"She will need all of your support as she fights back from this ordeal. But she feels the love around her.

"We never gave up. She is happy and grateful to be home. We can now breath again."