MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — A 14-year-old girl from Marshall who authorities had been looking for was found Tuesday at an Atlanta-area hotel with a 29-year-old man, police say.
Hannah Amaro was located by authorities at a hotel in Gwinnett County, Ga. around 5:40 p.m., Marshall Police Chief Jim Schwartz said during a press conference just after 6 p.m.
Hannah is currently in the custody of Gwinnett County authorities and will be returned to Michigan soon. She “appears to be OK,” Schwartz said, but will be checked out medically.
“We just want to thank the officers for putting their time into this. They did an amazing job. For the media, for getting this out there, for getting her on TV and spreading the word,” Hannah’s mother Amy Ellis said. “To our family and friends for being here and supporting us. This whole time, this whole entire day they’ve been with us. So we just want to thank you. And we can’t wait to see her.”
The still-unnamed 29-year-old who Hannah was found with was taken into police custody, Schwartz said.
Police say they believe Hannah and the man met online and communicated via Skype and on social media for about a month. Hannah’s parents said they had no idea who the man was. Police said Hannah kept the relationship a secret from everyone but one friend.
The man drove to Michigan from Georgia on Saturday to pick Hannah up, police say. Police said it appears Hannah willingly got into the suspect’s car. Authorities were interviewing her and the suspect late Tuesday night to see what happened during the drive to Georgia and once they arrived there.
The 29-year-old will likely face charges, Michigan State Police Lt. Chuck Christensen added at the press conference. He said Georgia has laws about transporting minors across state lines. Christensen also said criminal sexual conduct charges may also be filed in both Michigan and Georgia.
“I don’t know what makes somebody think that it’s okay to do something with somebody that much younger than them. But he just needs God in his life, that’s all,” Ellis said.
Hannah was reported missing by her parents Monday. She had last been seen around 10 a.m. Saturday at her father’s home on Green Street. The time lapse was explained Tuesday as a misunderstanding by Hannah’s family as to when a missing person’s report could be filed.
“It was a nightmare. It was a nightmare not knowing if she was okay, not knowing if she was safe, or if she was being forced. It was a nightmare,” Ellis said.
Marshall police activated a “major investigative team” in the search, which consisted of 20 officers from five law enforcement agencies and the FBI. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was also involved, and it said earlier Tuesday that Hannah may have been with a male companion.
Investigators said there was no apparent sign of a struggle at the father’s house and said Hannah had gone missing while no one else was home. Police checked some of Hannah’s social media accounts and talked to several of her friends, but none of them had been in contact with the girl since Saturday.
Hannah’s parents said the girl does not have a history of running away.
“Hannah, if you are watching this, we love you and we miss you and we just want you to come home,” her mother said during a news conference earlier Tuesday.
Only a few hours later during the second press conference, Chief Schwartz said Hannah had been located. Her parents were relieved.
“Just hug her, tell her I love her,” Ellis said.
An Amber Alert was not issued in Hannah’s disappearance.
Police say they expect to have her back in Michigan within a couple of days.