Marshals Searched a Home for Missing Teen. Then: 'Contact!'

14-year-old who vanished more than a year ago found hiding in closet in Michigan home
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2023 7:56 AM CST
Marshals Searched a Home for Missing Teen. Then: 'Contact!'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/BrookePierce)

A teen girl missing for more than a year after running away from her foster home was tracked down hiding out in a home in Michigan—weeping, scared, and pregnant, authorities say, per the AP. A US Marshals Service team found the 14-year-old Tuesday in a Port Huron residence, cowering behind clothes in a hallway closet, with the adult occupants of the home feigning surprise. "She was crying," Deputy US Marshal Robert Watson tells the Detroit Free Press. "She didn't know where she was going to go. She was pretty terrified."

Watson says the girl was also scared she'd lose her baby: Officials discovered she was estimated to be four or five months pregnant when the state's Children's Protective Services took her to a local hospital for a checkup. WDIV reports that even though the girl was reported missing by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office in September 2021, Watson's office didn't get wind of it until Tuesday, when he was informed that the teen may have been a trafficking victim. His team located the girl just hours later. Watson noted the occupants initially wouldn't allow his agents inside the Port Huron home and offered up "bogus information," per the Free Press.

"They wouldn't allow us to speak with anyone in the house, which were huge red flags for us," he says, adding that his team had to leave, obtain a search warrant, and then return. Watson corralled all four of the home's occupants into the living room while the agents scoured the rest of the residence, and as he was interviewing one of those four, an agent called out, "Contact!" In other words, the girl had been found. The teen's biological father is said to be "very relieved" to hear the news of his daughter, Watson tells NBC News, adding that the dad had "been dealing with this nightmare for a year and a half."

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Father and daughter have since been reunited, which Watson said was the teen's wish. The girl's mother, meanwhile, who'd previously lost custody of her daughter, is facing kidnapping charges, Watson tells the Free Press. He notes that officials believe the girl initially ran away, then was found by her mother, who then "started bouncing the girl around house to house, with the child ultimately falling into the wrong crowd," per the paper. Watson also doesn't think the home where the girl was found was being used for any trafficking purposes, though he says the occupants of the home could face charges of harboring a fugitive. It's not clear if the mother was one of those present when the girl was found. (More missing teen stories.)

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