Patricio G. Balona
The Daytona Beach News-Journal
DELAND, Fla. — A missing 13-year-old Oak Hill girl who met a man online put herself in a bad situation, but thanks to a dedicated deputy who found her at a motel, she was not harmed, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Monday.
“Had it not been for the deputy who found her, this could potentially have been a tragedy,” Chitwood said. “Who knows what kind of harm might have happened to her?”
Tyler Thompson, 22, of Orlando, was arrested and charged with depriving custody of a minor/incompetent person and traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child. He was out of the Volusia County Branch Jail on $15,000, court records show.
Thompson is also facing additional charges, said sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Gant.
Volusia County deputies said the teen went missing after school last Thursday and were called to help at 6:15 p.m. The child’s grandmother reported that she did not come home and did not go to her basketball game after school, Gant said in a news release.
In his investigation Deputy Royce James learned from a friend of the girl that the child was planning to go to a motel with an Orlando man she met online, whose name started with a “T”, possibly for Tyler, Gant said.
The friend told James the suspect may have picked up the girl at a Dollar General store in Oak Hill, the release states.
The deputy asked to see the store’s surveillance video and was told the child had said she was waiting for someone to pick her up, Gant said.
With the information and a picture of the child, James went to area motels, asking if the child had checked in. And, on checking on a third motel, All Suite Motel at 355 N. Ridgewood Ave., near Edgewater, the deputy found the child, Gant said.
“When Deputy Royce James entered the doorway of the room at the All Suite Motel at 335 N. Ridgewood Ave. in Edgewater, the girl ran into his arms and gave him a hug,” Gant wrote in his news release.
“When she was told she’d be taken somewhere to be medically cleared and interviewed, the girl asked Deputy James to stay with her. He took her to a local Department of Children and Families facility for evaluation, and then took her home,” Gant said in his statement.
Chitwood said James “takes policing to a different level” and is glad the child was found safe.
It’s the second case in a week involving online meeting and sex as deputies also arrested a Deltona woman Thursday for soliciting a 14-year-old in Georgia girl, Chitwood said.
“We assisted Georgia authorities in arresting a suspect who was grooming a child for a sexual encounter,” Chitwood said.
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