Parents of Union County teen found safe feel relieved, warning others

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — After nearly two weeks of not knowing where their daughter vanished to, the parents of a missing 16-year-old from Union County are breathing much easier tonight.

“The feelings when we first got the call and it was verified that it was our daughter, we just all fell to our knees, crying, praying, thanking God,” the father said.

Their daughter was found last night near St. Louis, Missouri, 750 miles away from home.

Because of the nature of what is alleged to have happened to her, Channel 9 is no longer identifying the parents or their child.

“She was like mommy, I miss you, I’m sorry, we had to tell her no, no, no, no, nothing to be sorry for,” the mother said.

She was last seen on Ring doorbell camera leaving her home on Oct. 13. Investigators believe 30-year-old Christopher Porter, a convicted sex offender, drove from his home in Oklahoma in Indian Trial with the sole purpose of picking up the teen victim.

The teen was found in Kirkwood when police noticed a suspicious vehicle parked near a Lowe’s.

The parents call that divine intervention.

“For him to walk up on that car and discover so randomly, out of the blue that that was our daughter, I mean what else could it be,” the family said.

Police believe Porter met the victim back in July and he took advantage of her stress and desire to run away, ultimately convincing her to do so.

The parents are now sharing advice with others.

“We thought we had it covered,” they said. “We checked, but these kids are very savvy, the predators are even more savvy. You have to be vigilant in your efforts to monitor the social media, or the online gaming.”

The parents expressed how thankful they are for the community’s interest.

“The investment that the community put into my daughter to be located was truly amazing,” they said.

Police say the met Porter on an anonymous social messaging app. Channel 9′s Erika Jackson spoke to an expert on what families can do to try to prevent this crime.

David Gomez teaches kids in Idaho important life lessons as a school resource officer.

“They’ve grown up their entire life on social media,” Gomez said. And they don’t understand that. You know, what’s happening behind the screen is not what’s on the screen

His top tip is to restrict social media usage until your child is 13. He said 16 is even better.

“When I’m teaching social media classes, I always ask parents, Hey, how many estranged adults are you going to allow your teenagers to talk to? And while in their mind, they’re thinking none. In reality, they’re going to talk to a whole lot of strangers,” Gomez said.

He also says suggests implementing a screen time limit and to keep track of who your kids are talking to.

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Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.