RUTHERFORD Co., N.C. (WSPA) — A teenager reported missing in Rutherford County has been found safe more than 900 miles away from home.
According to the FBI, the 13-year-old girl was found in Checotah, Oklahoma just before 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Troopers with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and FBI agents arrested 23-year-old Jacob Gardea of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in connection to her disappearance.
Gardea is facing charges in North Carolina for abduction of a child. More charges could be pending.
According to Sheriff Chris Francis, it is believed that Gardea and the 13-year-old girl met online in a chat room and said it appears that she got into the car willingly with him.
Francis said a key witness saw the girl get into the car and described the vehicle. After checking surveillance, they were able to get the vehicle and find the plate number.
According to Francis, they do believe Gardea may have been driving them to his home in New Mexico.
The FBI, SBI, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles all assisted in the investigation.
The FBI says arrangements are being made to return the teenager to her family in North Carolina.
Authorities are still searching for a missing 13-year-old girl believed to be suffering from dementia or some other cognitive impairment.
The sheriff’s office issued an alert for the girl on Monday.
On Wednesday, the FBI Charlotte Division said agents are assisting the sheriff’s office in the search for Acree.
In the news release, the FBI said an eyewitness reportedly saw her get into a vehicle with an unidentified person near Harris Henrietta Road in Mooresboro, NC.
On Tuesday, deputies identified a vehicle of interest in the case. The vehicle is described as a white Subaru, possibly manufactured between 2005 and 2007.
The FBI said Wednesday that investigators canvassed local businesses and identified an image of the vehicle. The image was reportedly captured at the intersection of Harris Henrietta Road and US-221A Highway in Rutherford County.
The FBI issued the following flyer on Wednesday:
Deputies continued their search Wednesday with the help of state and federal authorities.
Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis confirmed her family is offering a $4,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.
Anyone with information is asked to call 828-287-6074.
Vehicle of Interest