World of Warcraft Leads to Arrest in Case of Missing Teen

Ohio girl's account was active at home of 31-year-old Florida man Thomas Ebersole, police say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2024 3:06 PM CST
Cops Find Missing Teen via World of Warcraft
Thomas Ebersole.   (Marion County Sheriff's Office)

A missing 16-year-old girl from Ohio was found and a 31-year-old was arrested after investigators found that their accounts in the World of Warcraft online role-playing game were active at the same Florida address, authorities say. In a Facebook post, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said officers found the girl and Thomas Ebersole at Ebersole's home in Dunnellon after the FBI requested assistance in the case, CNN reports. Ebersole was arrested for allegedly traveling to meet a minor to engage in sexual activity, interfering with child custody, and sheltering an unmarried minor, reports WTOL reports.

The sheriff's office said Ebersole initially denied knowing the girl but later admitted that he had traveled to Ohio to bring her back to Florida. "Ebersole also stated he was in a romantic relationship with the juvenile victim and was going to hide her in his home with plans for her to become his wife," the sheriff's office said. It's not clear whether Ebersole met the girl through the online game, though the sheriff's office said he showed investigators messages from Discord, a platform popular with gamers, that "further outlined his plans to meet the victim in Ohio and engage in sexual activity despite knowing that he was committing a crime." (More missing teen stories.)

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