Missing Ohio teen located in Florida after logging in to World of Warcraft account

DUNNELLON, Fla. (AP) — A missing Ohio teen was recovered in Florida after she logged in to an online video game at the home of the man who took her, authorities said.

Thomas Ebersole, 31, was arrested Wednesday, Jan. 3, at his Dunnellon home, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. The area is about 80 miles north of Tampa. Police in Lima, about 80 miles northwest of Columbus, had reported the girl missing on Dec. 28.

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The FBI had contacted the sheriff’s office earlier that day to request help in locating the missing 16-year-old girl. Investigators determined that her World of Warcraft account had been used at a local address, which turned out to be Ebersole’s home, authorities said. His World of Warcraft account was also accessed at the location. World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

Investigators made contact with Ebersole at his home, and he initially denied knowing the girl, officials said. But he eventually admitted that he had driven to Ohio to meet the teen and brought her back to his home, authorities said. Ebersole also told investigators that he was in a romantic relationship with the girl and was going to hide her in his home until they could get married.

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Ebersole provided detectives with online messages that further outlined his plans to meet the girl in Ohio and have sex with her, despite knowing that he was committing a crime, officials said.

Ebersole faces felony charges of traveling to meet a minor to engage in sexual activity and interfering with child custody, as well as a misdemeanor charge of sheltering an unmarried minor, according to jail records. He was being held on $6,000 bail. Jail records didn’t list an attorney for Ebersole.

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