Authorities in Florida said a 12-year-old girl stole her father’s car, picked up her friend, and traveled over state borders to meet someone they may have met online, but the girls turned themselves in after seeing themselves on television.
The sisters, ages 12 and 14, were reported missing on Thursday morning after they were last seen in their hometown of Lake Butler, Florida. They were thought to be heading west on Interstate 10 toward Louisiana at the time. The girls’ identities are being withheld by NBC News.
Union County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Captain Lyn Williams stated the police had evidence suggesting the girls may have been headed to “see someone they met online.” Who that person was and how old they were are both mysteries.
Williams stated that alerts had been issued with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, with a focus on the region surrounding Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
They were not accompanied by an adult, and authorities did not suspect any foul play. The girls eventually recognized themselves in a TV broadcast of a missing children warning while at an Alabama gas station and surrendered to authorities.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office cancelled the notice that afternoon after learning that the girls had been located safely near Bayou La Batre, Alabama, some 400 miles away. Authorities from throughout the country, including the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, joined the search for the missing youngsters.
According to Williams, the FBI was notified when “suspicious circumstances” triggered “red lights” regarding the potential online meet-up location for the girls.
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