The case of a 14-year-old girl missing for more than a year got bumped up the priority list for investigators who found her hiding in a closet this week because she is pregnant.
According to new details disclosed Thursday, the Michigan State Police got a tip about her condition this month— a detail that meant the feds would help the local authorities, who had spent the last year and a half chasing leads.
Authorities from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, police in Port Huron and Marysville, and a foster care specialist all had worked the case for more than a year, but it wasn’t until the U.S. Marshals Service got involved that the girl was found.
On the day of her rescue Tuesday, the girl was taken to a hospital — it was her first medical checkup during her pregnancy — and then was reunited with her biological father.
Feds find girl hiding behind clothes
On Tuesday morning, the Michigan State Police contacted the U.S. Marshals Service for help. Within eight hours, a fugitive task force found the girl — hiding in a hallway closet of a home in Port Huron, Michigan, behind some clothes. She was crying, and four to five months pregnant. Four adults were in the house at the time — three men and one woman, a deputy marshal told the Detroit Free Press, a member of the USA TODAY Network, adding that they had previously told authorities they had no idea where the girl was.
Found:14-year-old girl missing over year found in closet of Michigan home, authorities say
As of Thursday evening, no charges had been filed in the case and no arrests had been made.
“Currently, the Sheriff’s Office and Port Huron Police Department are conducting interviews to ensure that anyone involved is criminally held responsible, ranging from harboring this runaway to sexual assault,” the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, which also took a shot at the U.S. Marshals for handling the rescue solo.
“Both myself and (Port Huron Police) Chief (Joseph) Platzer are disappointed in the lack of notification and cooperation from the Marshals. Had we been included in the execution of the search warrant, we could have had the opportunity to collect evidence of other potential crimes committed against the missing juvenile,” St. Clair County Sheriff Mat King said in the statement.
The comment stunned Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Watson, who led the team that found the girl, and said he contacted local authorities many times that day but never heard back.
“I made several calls to the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office and left messages that went unanswered during the active investigation,” Watson said. “This is disappointing.”
What happened over the last year and a half?
The Sheriff’s Office also disclosed new details about the girl, how she went missing and law enforcement’s efforts to find her:
On Sept. 3, 2021, the sheriff’s office received a report about a juvenile who had run away from her foster home, where she had been placed temporarily. She was expected to be placed in a more permanent home the following day — but she fled before that could happen.
The girl’s mother had lost custody of her daughter. It was not clear Thursday who the girl lived with when she was placed in foster care. But since her disappearance, her biological father contacted authorities and expressed concern for his daughter, who is now with him.
Biological mother under investigation
Meanwhile, after taking the initial runaway report, a sheriff’s deputy followed up with the foster care specialist in charge of the girl’s case to gather background information about the teen, who had frequent contact with law enforcement prior to her disappearance.
The deputy tried unsuccessfully to contact the juvenile directly. The deputy also contacted multiple people the girl had fled to or been associated with in the past, including her biological mother, who is now under investigation for possibly harboring a runaway.
According to the sheriff’s office, the foster care specialist suspected that the girl may have been hiding out with her mom at various locations in the county. The mother’s car was at the house where the girl was rescued on Tuesday, though the mom was not there.
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