MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Missing Mount Vernon girl, 14, found safe in Michigan

Feb 1, 2024, 11:56 AM | Updated: Feb 2, 2024, 7:49 am

Image: Officers from the Mount Vernon Police Department respond to a crime scene....

Officers from the Mount Vernon Police Department respond to a crime scene. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Law enforcement officials have found a girl who had been missing from her Mount Vernon home for nearly a month, unharmed in South Haven, Michigan.

Investigators learned the missing girl used a ride-sharing service, and due to Mount Vernon’s limited ride-sharing options, gave officials a lead to help them locate her. The particular ride that she used was ordered by a man rumored to be named “Keith,” according to the Mount Vernon Police Department (MVPD). Investigators were then able to determine a ride-share was ordered to his address in South Haven on Tuesday.

Previous coverage: 14-year-old Mount Vernon girl was missing for weeks

“We don’t have many of those here in Mount Vernon,” MVPD Lt. Dave Shackleton told KIRO Newsradio. “There was, indeed, a subject named Keith who had ordered a ride-share for (her) and he had an address in South Haven, Michigan.”

Members of the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office in Michigan went to a property on the Blue Star Memorial Highway and located the girl and the suspect.

“They found her at the subject’s residence,” Shackleton confirmed.

The suspect was taken into custody and is currently being held for charges in Michigan of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in addition to charges of a sex offender failing to comply. Due to the multiple locations and jurisdictions involved, formal criminal charging is still being coordinated between agencies.

“Based on the totality of the evidence collected and the potential that the juvenile had traveled multiple states, it supported probable cause for kidnapping in the 2nd degree,” Shackleton said in a press release. “Detectives then partnered with the local agency, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office, to investigate the location further.”

The events leading up to her disappearance

Keith was a person of interest for the police after friends the girl told her mother that she was communicating with a man in his late 20s or early 30s online on platforms including Discord. The mother explained to Fox News Digital that she previously punished her daughter for talking to the stranger by temporarily taking her phone away. She added that she did not realize the extent of any relationship her daughter may have been in.

“I didn’t fully realize the gravity of it …” the mother said to Fox News. “You always have something kind of going on with teenagers to some extent. But, I mean, she’s a really sweet, good-natured kid. So, the longer it went, the more the kids started opening up about (the online relationship).”

More on Washington: Everett standoff ends with person in custody after gunshots were fired

The investigation is continuing and more information will be available about the specific efforts involved in this case once the investigation is complete.

“Locating (her) safely is directly attributed to the family, friends and many who showed concern and compassion for her well-being,” Shackleton wrote in the MVPD release. “It’s also directly attributed to our federal, state and local law enforcement partners who helped when investigative leads went beyond our jurisdictional boundaries or abilities. In particular, we thank the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office for their efforts in ultimately locating (her).”

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story used the name of the missing girl. Now that she has been found, we have redacted her name.

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