TACOMA, Wash. – Authorities have rescued an 18-year-old woman with autism who was lured online and transported from her home in Arkansas to a cabin in Washington state, said the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department on Friday.
On Thursday, the department said, Arkansas detectives investigating the disappearance of the 18-year-old with special needs reached out for assistance. The teen was discovered missing from her home in the Blytheville, Arkansas area on February 17.
“Mississippi County detectives were able to determine that, in the minutes before her disappearance, the victim had received and replied to a text message from a Washington state phone number,” the department said. “Through further investigation (Mississippi County) detectives were able to determine that the victim had been contacted online by a 50-year-old man from the Eatonville area, who reportedly has tried to befriend over 8,000 other children via social media.”
Detectives learned, in the days before the victim disappeared, the suspect had reportedly flown from Washington state to Tennessee with an adult female companion.
“The suspects reportedly rented a vehicle utilizing fake identifications then drove to the victim’s residence in Arkansas, where they lured or abducted the victim with a possible sexual motivation,” the sheriff’s department said.
“The suspects then drove the victim to Washington state, where detectives were able to link the suspects to an address in the Eatonville area of Pierce County. MCSD were able to obtain arrest warrants for the 56-year-old male and his 28-year-old female companion on charges of kidnapping of an incompetent person and were able to determine a possible address where the suspects and victim could be located,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department news release said.
A team of Pierce County deputies and sergeants went to the home Thursday afternoon in the 39100 block of Ski Park Road East near Eatonville. After ignoring commands to open the door, the suspects eventually opened the doors and were taken into custody.
“The kidnap victim was located safe inside the house, and the male suspect’s 14-year-old son was also located safe inside the house,” the news release said.
The male suspect and the female suspect were booked into the Pierce County Jail for their kidnapping warrants, where they are currently awaiting extradition to Arkansas.
The FBI put the victim on a plane back to Arkansas on Friday morning to be reunited with her family. Deputies also drove the male suspect’s teenage son to a relative’s house in King County, the department said.