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A Bedford County girl reported missing Tuesday evening is now safely back home, and a Rhode Island man has been arrested in connection with her disappearance.
The search started when the Sheriff's Office got a call at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday from Hayden Mitchell, who lives on Evington Road. Mitchell reported seeing a young female and a young male acting suspiciously. He reported that they were walking in the direction of Campbell County and, every time they saw a car coming, they would hide in the woods. Deputies from Bedford County and Campbell County responded.
Sheriff Mike Brown said that this meant there were already deputies in the area when the girl's father called the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office at 5:50 p.m. and reported that his daughter was missing from their residence located on Steeplechase Drive. When she left home, she had been riding her bicycle and the bike was found on Bethel Church Road, not far from its intersection with Steeplechase.
State police joined the deputies from both counties in the search, which included searches in the densely wooded area. A Med Flight helicopter, which has a thermal imaging device, and the Forest Fire Department, which has hand-held, thermal imaging devices joined the search.
“The FBI was also involved to assist us,” said Sheriff Brown at a Thursday morning press conference.
Dogs were also brought in and started tracking the girl from the point where Mitchell reported seeing them. The dogs lost their tracks a few hundred yards away.
At 7:24 p.m. Wednesday evening, the Sheriff's Office got a call from a home on Bethel Church Road informing them that a girl came to the house and asked to use the phone. There was a male with her and the homeowner thought she resembled the missing girl.
Brown said that there were a number of deputies already in the area and they got to the home quickly. The girl, who was uninjured, was taken back to her home after a trip to the hospital to be checked.
The male who was with her was identified as Andrew Fitzgerald Holloway, 21, of 774 West Shore Road, Warwick, R.I. He was taken to the Blue Ridge Regional Jail where he is currently being held without bond. Holloway has been charged with three counts of carnal knowledge, a Class IV felony, and two counts of communicating online with a female under the age of 15 years old for the purpose of soliciting carnal knowledge, a Class IV felony.
According to Brown, investigators with Blue Ridge Thunder determined that girl and Holloway had been communicating over the Internet for about seven months. They first met playing an X-Box online game called “Lost Planet.” Brown said that Holloway flew down from Rhode Island on Tuesday to meet her. He said that the two were originally going to go to Canada but, after deciding that Canada was too cold, planned to go to Arizona. Brown said that there is no evidence that the girl went with Holloway unwillingly.
However, as far as Sheriff Brown knows, Holloway had no car and the two spent the night and day either outside or taking shelter where they could before showing up at a house asking to use the phone.
“I think they probably went there to get warm,” Brown said.