(LEXINGTON, N.C.) — Law enforcement rescued a missing 13-year-old girl from a locked shed in Lexington, North Carolina, after federal authorities provided a tip about the missing minor.
Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons said his office received a tip from an FBI Violent Crimes Task Force about a minor who had been abducted from Dallas. Officials were able to locate the missing girl in an externally-locked shed behind a home in Lexington, North Carolina.
Simmons said that Jorge Camacho, 34, used a social media messenger to lure her from her home to his car.
“The content of the chat was consistent with grooming and enticement, and he enticed her to actually leave the home where he picked her up in the area,” Simmons said.
According to the victim’s mother, who spoke with Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA, Camacho met her daughter while playing an online video game, chatting on online messenger Discord and communicating for “months.”
“We extend our deepest sympathies to this individual and her family in this unbelievably challenging time,” a spokesperson for Discord said in a statement, adding that the company works to keep bad actors off their platform. “We have and continue to cooperate closely with law enforcement in their investigation of this terrible incident.”
The timeline of the abduction is still unclear, as the investigation is ongoing, however, authorities said that they were able to use “camera activity” to determine the vehicle associated with the abduction and the suspect’s identity within 10 minutes of getting the tip.
Authorities searched Camacho’s home, finding the abducted girl in a shed on the property’s exterior.
According to Davidson, North Carolina, records, Camacho was booked at Davidson County Jail on Saturday. He has been charged with multiple offenses, including rape, child abduction and human trafficking. He is being held on a $1.2 million bond.
“I thank god that we were able to find this young girl; it may not be that case forever,” Simmons said, noting that his office had investigated a concerning number of similar cases.
More than 2,100 people were referred to federal authorities for human trafficking offenses in 2020, according to data from the Department of Justice, a 62% increase in referrals since 2011.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 365,348 children were missing in 2020, with estimates suggesting that 30% were actively trafficked.
Simmons said parents should be mindful of their children’s social media activity, given their potential susceptibility to bad actors.
“We’ve had to do this so many times, it’s crazy,” he said. “That’s why we’re pleading with these parents.”
The missing girl’s mother, whose first name is Esthela, said she was aware of those risks of online chats.
“We knew the risks, and we talked with her about them,” she told WFAA. “But still this happened, it was something awful.”
Esthela told WFAA that she has been reunited with her daughter, and they are beginning the healing process now.
“We’re going to work together, get as much help as we can and grow stronger,” she said.
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