A missing 13-year-old girl was found in a Volusia County hotel room with a 22-year-old Orlando man who deputies say met the victim online.
The girl was reported missing Thursday after she never came home from school. Volusia County Deputy Royce James spoke to a friend of the missing girl and learned she had plans to meet with someone she met online. James determined the victim met with Tyler Thompson, 22, at a local Dollar General and the suspect took her to an area hotel.
After reviewing surveillance from the Dollar General, the deputy found images of the victim at the store and an employee said the girl had been waiting for someone to pick her up.
James then began visiting area motels one by one, asking hotel clerks if they had seen the girl and searching for guests checked in under Thompson’s name. At the third motel, the All Suite Motel in Edgewater, the deputy said he noticed a guest checked in under Thompson’s name with an Orlando address.
When James knocked on the door and “Thompson finally answered,” the victim came running toward the deputy, according to the sheriff’s office. The deputy said the girl ran straight into his arms and gave him a hug. She also asked for him to stay with her while she was interviewed, according to the sheriff’s office.
The 13-year-old was medically cleared and interviewed at the Department of Children and Families before she was returned home.
“Just absolutely GREAT WORK by Deputy James & all who played a part in bringing home this 13-year-old girl,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said in a tweet. “A perfect example of what’s out there on the apps our kids are using. Parents, guardians, grandparents - stay alert and know that this can happen to any of us.”
Thompson faces charges from the sheriff’s office and Edgewater police. He is charged with interference with child custody and traveling to meet a minor after using a computer to lure a child. Additional charges are pending, according to the sheriff’s office.
Thompson was released from the Volusia County Branch Jail Friday after posting $15,000 bail.
James said that he was thankful he was able to locate the girl.
“Soon as she heard me mention her name, she looked out from the bedroom, saw I was a deputy, and came running to me and jump into my arms,” James said. “She was quite frankly terrified and was happy I was there to get her out of that situation.”
James also said that he had to pay attention to both protecting the victim and taking the suspect into custody.
“I had a lot of emotions running to me. I had a lot of happiness I found her. An extreme amount of anger for him, I must admit. Also, I have her in my left arm. I don’t know if he is going to fight.” James said.
James said his efforts were beyond worth it, as he was able to get the girl out of the motel room.
“The way the situation could have been worse is almost limitless,” James said