14-year-old girl missing over year found in closet of Michigan home, authorities say

DETROIT — A 14-year-old woman who was reported lacking over a yr in the past by her foster mother and father has been discovered hiding in a hallway closet in Michigan, authorities stated.

“She was crying. She did not know the place she was going to go. She was fairly terrified. And he or she was afraid of dropping her child,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Watson, who helped discover the woman, stated in an unique interview with the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday. The woman is estimated to be 4 to 5 months pregnant.

In keeping with Watson, who led the fugitive workforce that discovered the woman, the teenager was discovered Tuesday in a home in Port Huron, Michigan, about 62 miles northeast of Detroit, after which taken to a hospital by a Youngster Protecting Companies agent. After a checkup on the hospital, she was reunited together with her organic father.

“She was ecstatic about that,” Watson advised the Detroit Free Press, a part of the USA TODAY Community. “She was afraid that if she was discovered, she would return within the system. … She was simply, ‘I wanna be with my dad. I wanna be with my dad.'”


How the pregnant teenager was discovered

In keeping with Watson, he obtained a name from the Michigan State Police lacking kids’s workforce asking for assist with a case involving a Port Huron woman. She had been lacking for greater than a yr, and native authorities feared she could also be a sexual assault sufferer.

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Watson stated federal brokers began working outdated ideas and interviewing folks. One tip led them to a home on the south aspect. However after they bought there, he stated, one of many occupants “vehemently denied that they’d seen her” and gave them some “bogus info.”

“They would not allow us to in. They would not permit us to talk with anybody in the home, which have been enormous crimson flags for us,” Watson stated. “The woman stated, ‘Come again with a search warrant.’ So we did.”

Armed with a search warrant, Watson and his workforce combed the home. They saved all 4 occupants in the lounge whereas brokers searched different rooms. Watson was in the lounge questioning a person about 18-19 years outdated who allegedly had been seen leaving one other home with the woman that day, however acted like he did not know the place she was. As Watson interviewed this man, one in every of his brokers known as out from a hallway.

“Contact,” code for “I discovered her.”

“As soon as my activity pressure officer pulled again the garments and noticed her, she was clearly recognized,” Watson stated, noting the woman was present in a hallway closet only a few steps away from the place two males have been watching tv on a sofa, all whereas proclaiming they did not know the place she was, together with the one man she was seen with.

“He was like, ‘Oh’ … he is fully caught along with his hand within the cookie jar and did not know formulate something,” Watson stated.

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Lacking kids within the US

In 2021, there have been over 337,000 stories of lacking youth entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Nationwide Crime Info Middle. In keeping with the NCIC, youth accounted for 32% of the over 93,700 lively lacking individual data as of December 2021.

The overwhelming majority of lacking kids are runaways, Nancy McBride, the previous government director of Florida Outreach on the Nationwide Middle for Lacking and Exploited Kids, beforehand advised USA TODAY. In 2020, NCMEC assisted in practically 30,000 instances of lacking kids and 91% of these instances have been endangered runaways.

Watson famous that he didn’t suspect that the Michigan home was the scene of human trafficking operation, nor might he work out why the occupants have been mendacity.

“I wish to know, too,” Watson stated, including the occupants may very well be charged with harboring a fugitive, although it might be as much as the native police division to make that suggestion.

Reached for remark late Wednesday, a sergeant on the Port Huron Police Division stated he was unaware of the state of affairs and referred the Free Press to the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Workplace. That workplace stated it isn’t dealing with the case.

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Organic mom might face parental kidnapping prices

Watson famous that authorities are pursuing parental kidnapping prices in opposition to the woman’s organic mom, who beforehand misplaced custody of her daughter. He stated authorities imagine the mom discovered her daughter after she ran away, and began bouncing the woman round home to accommodate, with the kid in the end falling into the flawed crowd.

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For Watson, who has kids of his personal, the case was emotional. One of many final issues he did earlier than he left her with the Youngster Protecting Companies employee was give her his enterprise card.

“I requested her to vow me,” he recalled, “In the event you ever need assistance … name that quantity and we’d determine it out a way.”

“I’ve run a fugitive workforce for eight years, nothing holds a candle to discovering a baby who’s lacking,” Watson added. “When you’ll be able to convey a baby house to their household, particularly after they’ve been gone a yr and a half, I simply couldn’t think about what that’s like going by way of, that’s why this mission is so necessary to me.”

Contributing: Sarah Toy, USA TODAY

This text initially appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Lacking teenager lacking over a yr present in Michigan closet