13-year-old runaway from Katy found safe in Mexico City

A 13-year-old runaway from Katy, Texas has been found safe in Mexico City, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Investigators used her social media accounts to track her to a house there.

They say she was lured to Mexico by an online predator. 

KHOU is no longer naming the girl because she is a minor, she is no longer in danger and she might be the victim of a crime.

The teen was reported missing by her parents after she left school on Friday and boarded a bus destined for the Mexico border.

RELATED: Selling Girls | Sex traffickers are targeting our children

The parents said their daughter was on her way to meet a man with whom she had been corresponding on social media, covert messaging apps and through phone calls for the past year.

“We found a note in her room,” said her father. “She calls the guy ‘daddy’ and herself ‘baby girl.’ [The note read] ‘Daddy owns my body and my soul,' over and over and over again down this sheet of paper.”

The teen's parents say they discovered their daughter was exchanging graphic sexual images and messages last May through her phone, by using the covert messaging apps.

RELATED: Expert says case of 13-year-old runaway is textbook sex trafficking

The girl's mom said her daughter admitted she was communicating with a 29-year-old man who lives in Mexico.

The couple says they took away their daughter’s phone and turned it over to HCSO’s Cyber Crimes Division. They say when they tried to get updates on the status of their case, deputies would not return their phone calls or emails.

On  Saturday, a friend told them the daughter had been communicating with someone on a secret iPhone for months in the Thornton Middle School library. They don't know where she got that phone.

Officials believe the girl traveled to Laredo by bus and walked across the border into Mexico Friday night. They still don't know how she got to Mexico City.

 "She managed to do it and I think it’s because she was manipulated by an online predator, that’s what they do. They cultivate the relationship and strike at the appropriate time," said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. 

A woman seen on surveillance video with the teen at the Greyhound bus stop in Katy told KHOU she was duped by the girl. 

The woman, who asked not to be named, says she was approached by the at the bus stop on Friday and was mislead into purchasing the bus ticket for the young teen.

“I asked her how old she was; she said 18,” the woman told KHOU 11. “She told me she was here all week, visiting her boyfriend. She told me that [her parents] lived in Laredo and that she had been up here to visit her boyfriend and she was trying to get back to her family.”

 The woman says she bought the girl lunch and the bus ticket to Laredo.

“I’m just devastated, I’m so upset,” the woman said. "I’m devastated for this little girl. I’m devastated for her family.”

FBI and ICE agents worked on the case with the HCSO detectives.

So far, no charges have been filed in the case.

A Houston sex trafficking expert told KHOU 11 on Saturday, the man's behavior shows classic signs of grooming of young girls for the sex trade.

Sheriff Gonzalez warns that it can happen to any family. 

"Everybody posts on social media now, so they can kind of pick up the minor that’s a little bit distraught or posting things they can capitalize on and tap into that child they feel like they can manipulate," Gonzalez said. 

To learn more about grooming and how American girls are being targeted watch the video below or click here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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