The teen from Gassville, Arkansas, disappeared Oct. 1 after she left a note in her room that read, “I need to do this, so don’t look for me. I will be back and I will make you happy for me. I hope you know I love u.”
On Nov. 24, her story was featured on NewsNation’s “Missing” series. Two days later, her mother, Nicole McKiernan, said she got a tip from a man who believed he’d interacted with the girl in Chicago.
McKiernan passed the tip onto U.S. marshals, who found the teen “safe and unharmed,” but staying with a man in his 20s at his apartment.
“[My daughter] has explained to me that he was the nicest guy that she has ever met,” McKiernan said.
When she heard her daughter was safe, McKiernan drove more than 500 miles to pick her up. On the drive back, her mom showed her the litany of social media posts calling for her to be found safe, and it made her cry.
“I didn’t realize that so many people cared about me,” she told her mother.
An investigation found the teen met the man on an app called Omegle, which allows strangers to randomly video chat. Experts like Lighthouse for Life CEO Lisa Kejr say it fits a pattern of human trafficking — predators posing as sympathetic friends or love interests to lure young women away from home and groom them.
“It is people that are preying on the vulnerabilities of our young, and vulnerabilities can be anybody, but particularly those who don’t feel seen or don’t feel heard or valued or looking for that love and attention,” Kejr said on “NewsNation Prime” on Monday. “It’s very easy for somebody to come in and to feed them those lines that is going to entice them into life that they don’t even realize they’re getting into.”
“When she talks about him, you can just see this, like, glimmer or light in her eye, like he is just the best thing since sliced bread,” McKiernan said.
McKiernan said her daughter was told she had to clean the apartment twice a week, diet, and exercise daily. She was not allowed to leave the apartment when the man was not there.
According to McKiernan, police are investigating the man her daughter was found with. She said the teen now has an ankle monitor to wear in case she runs off again, and her access to the internet will be limited.
Her daughter is still not ready to open up completely about what happened, but McKiernan said she’s just happy to have her child home.
The healing is underway, McKiernan said. She had a message for the man her daughter was found with.
“I promise that my daughter will forget you.”