By Brandon Martin and Debbie Hall
A Texas man is being held without bond in the Vance County Detention Center in Henderson, N.C., while awaiting extradition.
Kaleb Christopher Merritt, 21, of Spring, Tx., is being held on initial charges of abduction and lascivious content over an electronic device in connection with the alleged abduction of a Bassett girl, Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said.
Merritt was taken into custody on Feb. 13, after an Amber Alert was issued for Allie Michelle Broadaway, 12, of Reed Creek, Bassett, who was initially reported missing from her home on Feb. 12 at 1:45 p.m.
Perry has said she is believed to have left willingly.
Broadaway was treated for minor injuries when she was found at a restaurant in Henderson, N.C but Perry did not comment about the specifics of the injuries. She was returned safely to her family from Henderson by the Henry County Sheriff’s Department.
Perry alleged that Merritt met Broadaway in December 2020 on Instagram. The two allegedly communicated via social media until Merritt traveled to Virginia in early February 2021.
Authorities allege that after arriving in Henry County, Merritt set up a camp in a wooded area behind Broadaway’s home and met with her on several occasions.
“He was in a wooded area near the residence,” Perry said. “I would just say within walking distance. I wouldn’t say that I have an actual distance. It wasn’t within sight” of the home.
Even after authorities seized Merritt’s electronic devices, the two allegedly used a messaging app to communicate, according to Perry.
Authorities allege Broadaway was coerced to leave her home.
Perry said authorities are still investigating the extent of time Merritt was in Henry County and other communications Merritt allegedly had while in the area.
“By his own admission, he had been in the area about four days. We think that it may have been a little bit longer,” Perry said. “There were multiple police contacts about finding him in parking lots. We think we was here a little bit longer.”
Additionally, “we are looking into all of his communications, period. Once you get an electronic device, you are usually able to see everything like where it took place,” Perry said. “We do think there were other communications that took place in this area.”
Perry said discussions about jurisdiction are ongoing.
“There are conversations going on and we are trying to find out the extent of what happened where,” he said. “There are conversations to see if the case can be prosecuted federally. Those final decisions have not been made. We are coordinating with anyone that has a case, putting all the information together, seeing what state codes are there and what federal codes are there to make sure we are dealing with the same things. Then we will try to see who would have the most effective sentencing for the crimes.”
Perry declined to rule out the possibility of additional charges.
“There haven’t been any additional charges yet,” Perry said. “It was a massive and intensive case with a lot of work going on very quickly. There were a lot of search warrants issued on cell phones for information and various other things. Now, we have to sit down and go through chats, folders, and electronic devices. Is there the potential for other things to be coming? Yes, there is, but at this point, we don’t have anything that we can say.”
The incident remains under investigation by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, and Virginia State Police.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Henry County Sheriff’s Office at 276-638-8751 or Crimestoppers at 63-CRIME (632-7463). Rewards of up to $2,500 are available through the Crimestoppers Program for information related to crime. The nature of the crime and the substance of the information determine the amount of reward paid.