Missing teen Hayleigh Wilson found with sex offender in Virginia
SMYTH COUNTY, Va. — A missing Tennessee teenager and a convicted sex offender have been found in Virginia, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Hayleigh Cheyenne Wilson, 14, was found by U.S Marshals in Smyth County, Virginia, with convicted sex offender Benjamin Joseph Shook. They have been taken to the Sheriff’s Department in Marion, Virginia.
Hayleigh disappeared last month along with her family’s Ford Explorer. Investigators found the Explorer abandoned near the Jefferson National Forest in Grayson County, Virginia.
Police are expected to release more details in a Tuesday morning briefing, WTVR reported, but authorities believe that the Haleigh met Shook online..
“It looks like both the child and the suspect met on an online app” called Kik, Surgoinsville Police Chief James Hammonds said. On its website, Kik says it has 200 million users.
The website Be Web Smart, which aims to help parents understand their children’s digital world, expressed concern about use of the app by children in a 2014 article, updated a few weeks ago. It notes that while many people use Kik to simply send messages to friends, because “it is very popular for sexting … it is not a good choice for kids.” Kik is rated 17+ in Apple’s App Store.
Hammond also expressed concern about the use of such apps by children. “These kids talking to these people on these chat apps and they really don’t know who they are talking to,” he said. “It is really a dangerous thing.”
Amber Alert issued
An Amber Alert was issued after Hayleigh, wearing a sleeveless, flowery top and dark shorts or skirt, was seen at a Walmart in Marion, North Carolina, with Shook, who has an active warrant out for failure to register as a sex offender. “We have no idea where they could be headed,” Hammonds said. “And it looks like they were buying tenting equipment at the Walmart.”
Father pleads for daughter’s return
Hayleigh’s father, Eddie Wilson, made a tearful plea for her return. He told CNN affiliate WATE, “You don’t know if she’s going to be home tomorrow or a year from now. I want Hayleigh to know that we love her and we want her home. We won’t stop looking for Hayleigh.”
“She’s a respectable little Christian girl but she got lured in,” he said.
Wilson also appealed directly to Shook, saying, “For Hayleigh’s sake I just ask you to be man enough to bring her home safe. Just let her out and go your own way, but bring my little girl home.”
The CNN Wire contributed to this report.