A 12-year-old Bassett girl reported missing Friday was found safe in Henderson, N.C., Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said Saturday night.
Allie Michele Broadaway, of Reed Creek Drive, and Kaleb Christopher Merritt were both taken into custody without incident, after they were found near a restaurant, Perry said.
Broadaway was checked by EMS officials for minor injuries, but Perry said the type or extent of the injuries was not known.
Investigators traveled in Henderson Saturday to interview Broadaway — who is considered a runaway — and Merritt, 21, of 1030 Lemm Road, Spring, Texas, was sought in connection with Friday incident, Perry said.
Both will be returned to Henry County, he said, and added Broadaway will be returned to her home.
Because travel crossed state lines, and several law enforcement agencies were involved in the investigation, jurisdiction has not yet been decided, he added.
The 2000 light green Mercury Grand Marquis also will be processed for evidence, Perry said.
The investigation will continue, and may involve other local girls, he said, and added Merritt was in Henry County for at least four days and possibly up to a week.
He encouraged parents to exercise their “parental authority,” and “have the conversation” with youngsters about online security.
“Just because somebody thinks they’ve deleted something doesn’t mean it can’t be found,” he said of photos and other electronic communications.
Additionally, Perry said it is important to stress to youngsters that “who you think you’re talking to online is probably not who you’re talking to.”
Local authorities became aware of the situation after they were contacted by the Southwestern Virginia Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, which had received a complaint from a social media messaging application about alleged messages between a 12-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man.
Perry said the messages were concerning, but not illegal, and he alleged Broadaway and Merritt managed to continue communicating even after the devices were seized.
“We pushed this to the absolute legal limit we could push it, but we did not cross probable cause lines,” Perry said.
The incident remains under investigation by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, and the FBI. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Henry County Sheriff’s Office at 276-638-8751 or Crimestoppers at 63-CRIME (632-7463). Crimestoppers offers rewards of up to $2,500 for information related to crimes.