The Volusia Sheriff’s Office first caught wind of a report about a missing underage girl at about 6:15 p.m. last Thursday and discovered through the teenager’s grandmother that the teenager from Oak Hill never returned home when school was let out. She also missed a basketball game she was supposed to attend after school, the office reported in a Facebook post on Monday.
A montage from body camera footage highlights Deputy Royce James’s endeavor to locate the teenage girl.
“A Volusia sheriff’s deputy looking for a 13-year-old Oak Hill girl who went missing after school went searching from motel to motel until he found her in a dark motel room with a 22-year-old Orlando man she met online,” the statement on the police’s Facebook page describes.
James first made contact with one of the girl’s friends, who then “said the victim was planning on going to a motel with someone she met online,” according to the Facebook post. She remembered that her hookup’s name was possibly Tyler, or another “T” name, and went on to say she believed the man, who she thought was from Orlando, would be meeting up with the minor at an Oak Hill Dollar Store, police reported.
The deputy continued the investigation by going to the store, where he looked over surveillance footage and saw the teen at the location. A staffer at the store informed him she “said she was waiting for someone to pick her up,” according to police.
He then followed the trail from motel to motel, questioning desk clerks if they recognized the teen in a picture he showed them. “She doesn’t even have an ID, she is only 13,” the deputy explained to a motel clerk in the video while conducting his investigation. He added, “The person she’s with, no clue.”
“At the third motel he checked, Deputy James noticed a guest checked in under the name Tyler Thompson, with an address out of Orlando,” the Facebook update said. “Deputies went to his room and knocked on the door several times before Thompson finally answered, and the victim came running.”
The sheriff’s office stated that deputies were instructed to knock on the suspect’s door at the All Suite Motel in Edgewater, Fla., “several times” before they got an answer. A shirtless man in boxer shorts can be seen opening the door to a dark room on video as the deputy identifies himself and instructs Thompson to sit on the couch in the room.
In the video, James is heard asking where the young teen is, to which Thompson admits: “She’s inside.”
The deputy asks the suspect his age several times before saying, “If I ask you the question one more time I’m going to lose my fucking mind.”
The shirtless man answers that he is 22, before the deputy adds “Oh, you f–f–ked up. Yeah, you f–ked up real good.”
“When she was told she’d be taken somewhere to be medically cleared and interviewed, the girl asked Deputy James to stay with her,” police reported. “He took her to a local Department of Children and Families facility for evaluation, and then took her home.”
Thompson has been charged with interference with child custody and traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child, according to officials. The suspect can also be facing additional charges as the investigation unfolds.
The sheriff’s office reported that Thompson was released on Friday night after posting a $15,000 bail.