DEARBORN — A 14-year-old girl who was reported missing by her foster parents more than a year ago has been discovered in a hallway closet in Michigan, according to authorities.
“She was in tears. She had no idea where she was heading. She was quite frightened. She also feared losing her child, “Robert Watson, a deputy US marshal who assisted in the girl’s discovery, stated in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday. According to estimates, the girl is four to five months along.
The teen was discovered Tuesday in a home in Port Huron, Michigan, roughly 62 miles northeast of Detroit, and then transported to a hospital by a Child Protective Services agent, according to Watson, who headed the fugitive squad that found the kid. She was reunited with her biological father after undergoing a checkup at the hospital.
According to Watson, “She was over the moon about that.” “She was concerned that if she were discovered, she would be put back into the system. She merely said, “I want to be with my dad.” I want to be with my father.”
How the youngster was discovered to be pregnant
Watson claims that the missing children’s unit of the Michigan State Police called him for assistance with a case involving a Port Huron girl. Local officials worried that she might have been a victim of sexual assault since she had been missing for more than a year.
According to Watson, federal investigators began pursuing previous leads and conducting interviews. Following a tip, they found a home on the south side. He claimed that when they arrived, one of the residents “vehemently denied that they had seen her” and provided them with some “false information.”
“We were not permitted entry. The fact that they wouldn’t let us speak to anyone in the house raised serious red flags for us “said Watson. The woman instructed us to return with a search warrant, so we did.
With a search warrant in hand, Watson and his colleagues searched the residence. While agents examined other rooms, they kept all four residents in the living room. The girl was spotted leaving another house that day with a man, who was about 18 to 19 years old but pretended to be unaware of her whereabouts as Watson questioned him in the living room. One of Watson’s operatives yelled from a hallway as he was speaking with this individual.
A code word for “I found her” is “contact.”
Watson stated that the girl was discovered in a hallway closet just a few feet from two men who were sitting on a couch watching television and claiming not to know where she was, including the one man she was last seen with. “Once my task force officer pulled back the clothes and saw her, she was identified,” Watson said.
He was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and was unable to come up with a plan, according to Watson.
U.S. missing children
The National Crime Information Center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation received approximately 337,000 reports of young people missing in 2021. As of December 2021, the NCIC reported that children made up 32% of the more than 93,700 current missing person records.
According to Nancy McBride, the former executive director of Florida Outreach at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the vast majority of missing children are runaways. Nearly 30,000 cases of missing children received assistance from NCMEC in 2020, and 91% of those cases involved runaways in danger.
Watson stated that he had no reason to believe that the Michigan home was the site of a human trafficking organization, nor was he able to determine the reason for the occupants’ deception.
Watson said, “I want to know, too,” adding that the local police department would decide whether to propose that the residents be prosecuted for harboring a fugitive.
When contacted late on Wednesday for comment, a sergeant with the Port Huron Police Department claimed to be uninformed of the circumstances and sent the media to the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office. According to that office, it is not managing the matter.
The biological mother can be accused of parental kidnapping
Watson mentioned that the girl’s biological mother, who had previously lost custody of her daughter, is being charged with parental kidnapping. Authorities, according to him, think the mother discovered her daughter after she had run away and began bouncing the kid from house to house until she eventually fell into the wrong crowd.
The matter was emotive for Watson, who is a father himself. He gave her his business card as one of the final acts before leaving her in the care of the Child Protective Services employee.
He remembers asking her to pledge that if she ever needed assistance, to contact that number and they would work something out.
Watson continued, “I’ve been running a fugitive squad for eight years, but nothing compares to discovering a kid who’s gone missing. “I just couldn’t imagine what that’s like going through when you can return a child home to their family, especially when they’ve been gone for a year and a half. That’s why this mission is so important to me.”
The U.S. Marshals Service
The U.S. Marshals Service is the oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789 and has served as a critical component of the federal justice system for over 230 years.
In addition to their traditional duties, such as the protection of the federal judiciary and the apprehension of fugitives, Deputy U.S. Marshals are often called upon to assist in other high-priority missions, such as disaster relief efforts, security for special events, and the protection of witnesses and informants. They may also be called upon to provide support to other federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and to state and local law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. Marshals Service has the authority to deputize individuals as Special Deputy U.S. Marshals to assist with specific missions or operations. These individuals may come from other law enforcement agencies, the military, or the private sector, and they are authorized to carry out the duties of a Deputy U.S. Marshal while working on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service.