KIRKWOOD, Mo. (TCD) -- Police arrested a 30-year-old sex offender this week who is accused of meeting a 16-year-old girl online and driving her from North Carolina to Missouri, where she was found safe.
According to a news release from the Monroe Police Department, Lauren Heath was last seen leaving her home on Seefin Court on Friday, Oct. 13, shortly after 4 p.m., wearing a large sweatshirt and black backpack and carrying a white handbag. Police said they were looking for the teen "utilizing exhaustive methods, techniques, and assistance from cooperating agencies."
In an update, Monroe Police said Heath was found safe in Kirkwood, Missouri, nearly two weeks later on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Police observed a "suspicious vehicle" in a Lowe’s parking lot off Interstate 44 and spoke with the driver, a convicted sex offender named Christopher Porter.
Police noticed a young woman in the passenger seat and later identified her as Heath. Officers were able to contact Heath’s parents after she provided a birth certificate and her mother’s phone number.
Heath reportedly told police she met Porter on "anonymous social messaging apps."
Porter allegedly "took advantage of comments made by Ms. Heath about stress and wanting to run away, and ultimately convinced her to do so."
Police said Porter drove from Oklahoma to Monroe, North Carolina, to meet Heath and pick her up.
Porter faces multiple offenses out of Missouri, but police did not specify the charges. Porter will likely face additional charges pending further investigation.
Heath’s parents reportedly flew from North Carolina to Missouri to reunite with their daughter.
In a statement, Monroe Police Chief J. Bryan Gilliard said, "Our detectives scoured every lead, followed every tip, and left no stone unturned in our pursuit of reuniting Ms. Heath with her family."