REYNOLDSBURG, OH (WCMH) - Harvey Mathias says a huge weight was lifted when he got the call this week that his daughter had been found and was safe. “Not knowing was the worst part,” Mathias said.
A 16-year-old girl was reported missing May 11 after she failed to show up for school or return home at the end of the day. She was recovered this week in west Texas and a 69-year-old man was charged with kidnapping.
Police say the teen had been secretly communicating Darrel Pridemore. Pridemore is the grandfather of a boy that the teen had met at church camp.
Reynoldsburg police Lt. Ron Wright says Pridemore bought a phone and sent it to the girl so they could secretly communicate. He says Pridemore was in Reynoldsburg last Friday and arranged to meet the teen at a park near her home.
On May 14, authorities were able to confirm that Pridemore made his way back to his residence in Barstow, Texas. They suspected he had the young girl with him based on purchases he made at Victoria Secret and American Eagle after the child went missing. Police in Texas found Pridemore at his resident. They located the missing girl in a hotel nearby.
“Now she’s in a counseling center there and I think the best thing for her would be for her to return home and get help with her family here and the services that we have here,” said Harvey Mathias.
Police say Pridemore had texted the victim's mother through a third party app stating the 16-year-old was safe. He then asked the mother if he could marry the teen.
Harvey Mathias says his daughter struggles with the same issues and emotions as most teenagers but he could not explain her decision to run away.
“Her troubles are no more escalated than the average child I’m sure,” Mathias said. “But she has a lot higher intellect so she’s having a lot more difficulty processing these things.”
Pridemore was charged with kidnapping under Texas law. The only charge filed in Ohio so far is felony interference with custody. “Right now it shows that there was a willingness to go with him,” Lt. Wright said. “Under State of Ohio law, there’s nothing that could show kidnapping or any kind of unlawful restraint since she did go with him willingly, from what it appears right now.”
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