ORLANDO — A Volusia sheriff’s deputy looking for a 13-year-old Oak Hill girl who went missing after school went searching from motel to motel until he found her in a dark motel room with a 22-year-old Orlando man she met online.
When Deputy Royce James entered the doorway of the room at the All Suite Motel at 335 N. Ridgewood Ave. in Edgewater, the girl ran into his arms and gave him a hug.
The suspect, 22-year-old Tyler Thompson, was taken into custody on a charge of interference with child custody, with the Edgewater Police Department adding a charge of traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child. Additional charges are pending.
Deputies responded to the missing child report around 6:15 p.m. Thursday, after the girl’s grandmother said she never came home, and never went to her basketball game after school, either. Deputy James started investigating, and spoke to a friend of the missing girl, who said the victim was planning on going to a motel with someone she met online. The friend said she thought the man’s name started with a T, possibly Tyler, and that he was from Orlando. She said he may have picked up the victim at the Dollar General store in Oak Hill.
Deputy James went to the Dollar General to look for security video, and found surveillance images of the victim at the store. An employee reported the girl said she was waiting for someone to pick her up.
Next, Deputy James started visiting area motels, showing the front desk clerks a photo of the missing girl and searching the day’s check-ins for a match. At the third motel he checked, Deputy James noticed a guest checked in under the name Tyler Thompson, with an address out of Orlando. Deputies went to his room and knocked on the door several times before Thompson finally answered, and the victim came running.
When she was told she’d be taken somewhere to be medically cleared and interviewed, the girl asked Deputy James to stay with her. He took her to a local Department of Children and Families facility for evaluation, and then took her home.
The motel is located in the city limits of Edgewater, and the Edgewater Police Department is working with the State Attorney’s Office on potential additional charges in this case. Thompson was released from the Volusia County Branch Jail on Friday night after posting $15,000 bail on his current charges.