MEDFORD, Ore. — What started as a missing teen investigation has turned criminal after a 31-year old Washington man drove to Medford to pick up a 16-year-old autistic girl.
Police are calling the relationship “romantic,” and say whether or not the relationship became a physical one is now a key part of the investigation.
The girl’s mother says the two have been talking for 2 years over the internet. She says the man pretended to be younger than he was and, in effect, “brainwashed” her daughter.
After taking away her internet privileges at home, the girl’s mother told NBC5 News she believes the relationship continued on computers at North Medford High School and at friends’ homes.
Surveillance footage around North Medford High School showed the girl getting into a pick-up truck near the school on Friday; police believe the meeting may have been planned.
The following day, police found the girl unharmed in the Puget Sound area of Washington.
The agency has declined to comment on whether any criminal charges will be filed. However, because she went willingly and because she is 16, it says kidnapping charges aren’t an option in Oregon.
Police also say it’s legal for an adult in Washington to have sex with a 16-year-old.
The FBI could look into filing federal charges against the man because the girl was taken across state lines, according to the agency. But that wouldn’t happen until the MPD investigation is over.
While the school district has declined to comment about this specific case, they told NBC5 News in a statement on Tuesday:
Student safety is always at the center of our procedures at the Medford School District and while we cannot speak to specific cases involving students, these are our general policies around technology:
We value technology as a learning tool and because of that, we have safety and security features in place for students using MSD computers and Chromebooks or their phones on MSD WiFi:
- We use certified firewalls, both internally and externally that block inappropriate content in accordance with the Child’s Internet Protection Act.
- Our Chromebooks only allow students to log in with MSD accounts.
- Through the MSD accounts, students can only email approved domains.
- Students are required to sign our acceptable use policy, which outlines appropriate and inappropriate uses of technology.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia. She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.