Texas police said they recovered a 12-year-old missing girl a week after she was reported getting into a stranger’s truck in the middle of the night.
27-year-old Sirterryon Preston was arrested for allegedly trying to run away from police after they found him with the missing girl in Columbus, Texas, about 70 miles away from her home in Missouri City.
The girl had been seen last on Feb. 22, when her neighbor’s surveillance camera recorded her getting into a dark-colored Dodge Ram truck on Waterchase Drive at about 1:40 a.m.
Her mother said that she had never run away before and that she didn’t know if she got into the truck knowingly or if she was coerced.
On Friday, at about 12:40 p.m., Columbus police said they were alerted to the possible presence of the missing girl at a Shell gas station and allegedly found Preston with her. When they tried to detain him, he attempted to flee, but police were able to capture him.
Preston was booked into the Colorado County Detention Facility on a charge of evading arrest. Police said that other charges are being considered pending an investigation by the FBI.
The girl was taken to the Texas Children’s Hospital for an evaluation. The Houston Police Department said they are afraid that the girl was trafficked in the time she was missing.
Police issued an AMBER alert days after she was first reported missing after obtaining information that led them to believe she was in danger. Her family said they were upset the alert wasn’t issued earlier.
KHOU-TV reported that the girl’s family was relieved to hear she had been found and gathered together on the front yard of the home to sing “He’s an On-Time God” together.
Clara Edwards, a neighbor of the family, spoke to KHOU.
“I didn’t even ask where, when or anything as long as they found her that was so exciting,” she said. “And I get to sleep tonight without waking up with her on my mind.”
Police said that the girl might have been on a social media app named “Tagged,” which is a dating and meeting application meant only for adults.
Jennifer Hill of the Children’s Assessment Center in Houston said that parents have to be diligent in protecting their children from predators online.
“A lot of times it can even be through schools themselves… it’s something that we have to worry about every day and have open communication with our children about because we want to make sure that they know those dangers rather than just encountering them,” said Hill.
“So unlike trafficking a drug, for example, children are able to be used over and over again when they’re sold for sex. So in that way, it can be a lot more profitable than selling drugs that are only used one time,” she added.
Here’s a local news report about the incident: