FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A member of the 82nd Airborne was arrested after investigators said he kidnapped a 12-year-old girl from her Craven County home.
The Craven County Sheriff’s Office said they received a phone call Sunday morning from a woman who reported her granddaughter was missing.
The grandmother said the girl’s window was open and a ransom note was left on her bed.
The SBI and FBI were immediately contacted along with several other local enforcement agencies.
The girl was found late Sunday afternoon in Fayetteville with 19-year-old James Murdock Peele, the sheriff’s office said. Sheriff Jerry Monette said phone tracking helped locate the girl.
“It’s been quite successful for us, and what we do is try to track the movements of an individual through their cellphone use, and we’re able to map a pattern,” Monette said.
Peele, a private 2nd class in the 82nd Airborne, was arrested and charged with statutory rape, first-degree kidnapping, and burglary.
Craven County Sheriff Jerry Monette said there is evidence sexual activity occurred between Peele and the victim.
Peele was transported back to Craven County where the sheriff’s office said he could face additional charges. Monette said federal charges are possible if Peele took the victim across state lines.
The sheriff said it is possible the victim went willingly with Peele but the investigation will reveal that. The two had conversations online but Monette wouldn’t elaborate on what platform they used.
“We can not respect our children’s privacy when it comes down to their safety,” Monette said. “We can’t treat young people like adults and expect them to reason like a grown person does.”
The Sheriff’s Office Investigative Division, SBI, FBI, U.S. Army CID, U.S. Secret Service, the District Attorney’s Office, National Center for Missing Children, DMV, along with multiple local Sheriff’s Offices in North and South Carolina all participated in the apprehension.