Houston, TX, USA : Ashlee Hattermann, the 13-year-old runaway from Katy (Houston Metro), Texas, has been found safe in Mexico, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Ashlee Hattermann was last seen on Friday, Dec.1 in Katy.
Authorities believe the teen ran away and was headed to Mexico after being spotted in Laredo, Texas on Saturday. Investigators believe she was meeting up with a stranger she met online.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office, HSCO, said on Twitter late Sunday evening cooperation from authorities in Mexico helped to ensure the girl was found safe. The county Sheriff’s Office also thanked the FBI San Antonio Laredo office for their help in the search.
The FBI earlier announced on Sunday it joined in the search for 13-year-old Ashlee Kay Hattermann.
In a tweet Sunday evening, FBI San Antonio wrote: “FBI San Antonio Laredo office joined in investigation of missing 13-year-old Ashlee Hattermann, last seen in Katy, TX on Friday, 12/1. Ashlee traveled to Laredo, TX & crossed into Mexico late Friday. She is 5’7″, 130lbs, long brown hair, blue eyes. Call FBI 210-225-6741”
Her mother, Tiffany Hattermann, said she dropped the 8th grader off at Thornton Middle School on Friday. She received a call from the school that afternoon notifying her that Ashlee had missed several classes.
Tiffany and her husband, Keith later learned their 13-year-old convinced someone to buy her a bus ticket in Katy.
The couple believed their daughter went to meet a man in Mexico with whom she had been corresponding online.
The alleged relationship continued even after the girl’s parents took away her phone and reported the man to police.
The same secret social media apps used by a predator to lure a 13-year-old Katy girl to Mexico were used by investigators to help track her down.
After a frantic search, the girl was found safe Sunday at a home in Mexico City. We’re no longer naming her because she is underage and may have been a crime victim. So far, no charges have been filed in this case.
“We know that once it’s crossed that threshold, that many times they’re going to be sax trafficked or possibly even killed,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
Gonzalez says investigators tracked the 13-year-old through the same social media accounts an online predator used to find the girl last summer.
Her parents learned she was communicating with an older man and took action.
“The parents cut off internet access and took her phone away, but again, we feel this individual in Mexico provided her a back up phone and communication continued,” Gonzalez explained.
A friend said the 8th grader used the secret phone in the school library to communicate with the man.
He apparently groomed her over time to convince her to leave home.
“These predators know it may not happen overnight, so these predators are committed to working these relationships with these vulnerable minors over time and strike at the appropriate time,” Gonzalez said. “Then many times, it’s too late.”
This child is now safe, at the U.S. embassy in Mexico.
But so many others weren’t so lucky.
“It’s a growing issue. Human trafficking is real. Sax trafficking is real. It’s happening here in our own backyard,” Gonzalez warned.
The F.B.I. is working to reunite the girl with her family. It only took 48 hours to find her, which investigators say is rare.