(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) LOWER ALSACE — A missing Berks County teen was found safe Thursday evening at a Leesburg, Va., home, where the man she left Pennsylvania with had been hiding her in a closet, according to attorney Michael Hollinger, who assisted the girl’s family in locating her and set up the Find Liz Ocasio Facebook page.
Hollinger said he was informed Thursday evening around 10 p.m. by Central Berks Regional Police Chief Anthony C. Garipoli Sr. that Elizabeth Ocasio had been located by Virginia State Police when troopers visited the home of a man Ocasio allegedly had contact with through an online gaming site. The man, described as ex-military in his mid-20s, reportedly hid Ocasio in the home he shared with his parents, and his parents were unaware of Ocasio’s presence until a few hours before the state police arrived at their doorstep.
“Once she talked to the troopers she realized that the man did not have her best interests at heart,” said Hollinger, who said the teen and the man had been conversing for six months. The man the 17-year-old girl was found with reportedly drove up to Berks County several times to meet with Ocasio before she left with him May 26, Hollinger said.
Hollinger said when the man was informed of the trouble he had caused for the Berks County family, he replied, “I don’t regret it . . . not one bit.” A statement Hollinger said he found disturbing.
When she disappeared, Ocasio reportedly told her mother that she was going to stay with an aunt for the weekend, according to information from police. Ocasio never arrived at her aunt’s home and left her ID and ATM cards behind when she took off, according to Hollinger. Ocasio also shut down her Facebook page so her family had no way of knowing who she had been in contact with, Hollinger said.
Hollinger said he became involved as a concerned neighbor when he heard the teen was missing.
“They are a really tight-knit close family,” and it was unusual that the girl would run off, said Hollinger. He added that rumors that a fight had caused Ocasio to leave were not true and that she had just been taken advantage of through this online associate.
Hollinger said the incident is being investigated by state police in Pennsylvania and Virginia who are examining whether any charges may be filed in the case.
A call and email placed to the Central Berks Regional Police Department were unreturned by deadline Friday.
EARLIER VERSION OF THIS STORY
A Lower Alsace, Berks County, teen who went missing shortly before Memorial Day has been found safe, according to a notice on the Find Liz Ocasio Facebook page.
According to the notice, posted by Michael Hollinger, further information on how the teenager was found and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance would not be released by the family. Previously, the site reported that a warrant had been issued to obtain Elizabeth Ocasio’s cell phone records.
According to a report on WFMZ, Ocasio was located in Leesburg, Va. The 17-year-old had been reported missing by her family on Sunday. She was last seen Saturday by her mother who said Ocasio had packed a backpack and said she was headed to her aunt’s house down the street. The family informed Central Berks Regional Police that Ocasio may have arranged a meeting with someone she met through Facebook. Further details were unavailable.