Missing Cass County teen found in Missouri, leading to warning about online activity

CASS COUNTY, Ind. — A 14-year-old Logansport girl has been sent home and five men are in a Missouri prison for allegedly kidnapping the Cass County teen and driving her across state lines. the state.

Investigators and other experts on human trafficking agree that this case can serve as a lesson to parents everywhere.

The victim's father reported that the 14-year-old ran away Sunday evening.

Thanks to technology and quick police work, the girl was found less than 6 hours later in Macon County, Missouri. That's nearly 400 miles west of the victim's home.

According to court documents, Missouri State Highway Patrol officers were notified shortly before 2 a.m. June 17 that an active search was underway for a missing 14-year-old girl in Cass County.

The suspect's SUV was tracked by law enforcement using a cell phone belonging to the 14-year-old girl.

“She had her cell phone with her and they were actively investigating her whereabouts,” said Corporal Justin Dunn with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

During a traffic stop, the Missouri trooper allegedly saw a girl in the backseat of the vehicle who identified herself as the missing teen. The officer then removed the minor and placed her in the patrol vehicle.

The officer, with the assistance of the Macon Sheriff's Office, arrested Marlon Aguilar of Honduras, Arturo Eustaquio of Mexico, Noe Guzman Hernandez of Mexico, Daniel Ruiz Lopez of Mexico and Carlos Funez of Honduras.

The five men were taken into custody for endangering the safety of a child.

All five suspects are being held without bail because they were in the country illegally from Mexico and Honduras.

“If I can give one warning to parents about your kids, know what your kids are doing on the Internet,” Dunn said.

In fact, the Missouri State Police arrest report claims the men were trafficking the girl to California after meeting her online.

“We need to know what our children are doing. Internet safety must be a top priority,” Dunn said.

“Everyone is susceptible to exploitation, so where there is vulnerability, you often find exploitation,” said Genevieve Meyer of the Indiana Trafficking Assistance Program.

Geneviève advises all parents to watch for red flags, such as a sudden change in their child's behavior, and to monitor their child's online activity to prevent them from becoming victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking humans.

Other red flags include the child being worried or anxious, spending a lot of time online, and being secretive about their online activity.

“We used to talk to our kids about not getting in cars and stranger dangers and now we have to have conversations about who they talk to and what information they share online,” Meyer said.

Based on the charges filed in Missouri, the suspects face a maximum sentence of up to seven years in prison, although they could also face federal charges.

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