A 16-year-old teenager from Michigan has been found alive and safe after running off to Puerto Rico to live with a man she met over Xbox Live and pursue her dream of being a boxer.
Jasmine Rieberger was found by police on Tuesday, three days after she disappeared from her parents’ Michigan home. The teen left a note saying in part, “I am not kidnapped,” but her father Michael was nonetheless distraught when he spoke to ABC Detroit station WXYZ. “I’m worried I’ll never see my daughter again,” he said. “If she was killed, raped, I have no clue.”
But the girl’s mother, Stacey, said it later became apparent that the teenager met a 26-year-old man from Puerto Rico while playing her Xbox online. The pair began exchanging text messages and conversing over the telephone before she hopped a plane and flew to meet him. She used her “Sweet 16 birthday money” to buy the ticket, and before leaving she destroyed both her computer and her Xbox to cover her tracks.
Fortunately for her parents, she wasn’t quite smart enough to dispose of the phone bills that contained her paramour’s number, which made it relatively easy for Interpol to track the teen down to a house near San Juan, where she was living with him and his family. Despite the fact that she flew there voluntarily, the man has been detained by police.
“From what we gathered from the note is that he made promises to her,” her mother said in an interview with Good Morning America. “[He] lured her there with some kind of promises to become a boxing champion.”
Her mother was scheduled to fly to Puerto Rico today to join her husband and daughter. “[I] can’t wait to see her,” she said. She also gave a warning to parents of prospective teenage female boxing champs who got too damn much money for their 16th birthday. “No matter what you do, you can’t protect them 100 percent of the time,” she said. “The cell phone is another way the predators can get to them. That’s how they got to my daughter.”
While it’s unclear who “they” are, WiredSafety founder and chief Perry Aftab concurred with the sentiment. “Parents don’t realize kids are playing [videogames] and communicating,” he said.