Calif. Teen Jessie Bender Not Kidnapped; Ran to Avoid Arranged Marriage


A 13-year-old California girl reported kidnapped by her parents actually ran away from home to escape a possible arranged marriage in Pakistan.

On February 22, the parents of Jessie Bender reported to police that their daughter was missing, likely kidnapped by someone she met on Facebook. Local police, the FBI and police departments nationwide joined in the search.

Turns out it was all a lie.

Jessie ran away to avoid a two-month trip to her step-father's native country, where she feared she would become a child bride. A family member helped her hide out in a hotel in Apple Valley, about 30 miles from her home in Hesperia in Southern California.

"Bender family members misled detectives and withheld critical information, as a result delayed the investigation and recovery of their daughter," San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Roxanne Walker said in a news release.

Jessie and her three siblings were taken into child protective custody while authorities decide whether to filing charges against the parents, San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.

At one point in the nationwide investigation, a man in Chicago was considered a suspect because the girl's mother believed she was communicating with him on Facebook.

The mother did eventually admit to police that Jessie was upset about the Pakistan trip, but that "she was fine with it" and never said anything about an arranged marriage.


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