Police located a 16-year-old girl missing from North Carolina after a driver on Interstate 75 in Southern Kentucky noticed her in another car making a distress signal and alerted authorities.
Police charged the driver who had the girl in his car, 61-year-old James Herbert Brick of Cherokee, N.C., with unlawful imprisonment and possession of material showing a sexual performance by a minor, according to a news release from Laurel Couty Sheriff John Root.
Deputy Gilbert Acciardo, spokesman for Root’s office, said the girl and Brick were acquainted.
The girl first went with Brick willingly, but apparently got scared at some point as they traveled, Acciardo said.
“I think she started fearing for her life,” Acciardo said Friday.
The girl’s parents had reported her missing from Asheville, N.C., on Tuesday morning, according to Root’s office.
Thursday at midday, a driver headed south on I-75 called 9-1-1 in Laurel County and said that while following a silver Toyota car, the driver noticed a girl in the car making hand gestures he recognized from the social media platform TikTok as a request for help, according to the news release.
The girl also appeared to be in distress.
The driver, whose name was not released, continued following the Toyota and giving dispatchers updates on where they were.
Sheriff’s officers parked at the I-75 interchange with KY 80 to watch for the vehicle. The driver got off at that exit and police stopped the car.
The 16-year-old girl told police after she left with Brick, they traveled from North Carolina through Tennessee and Kentucky to Ohio where Brick had relatives.
When the relatives learned the girl’s age and that she was reported missing, Brick headed back south on I-75 and the girl started trying to get the attention of other motorists, according to the news release.
Officers found a cell phone in Brick’s possession with images that allegedly “portrayed a juvenile female in a sexual manner,” the news release said.
Lt. Chris Edwards and Robert Reed, a detective with Root’s office, arrested Brick just after 12:30 p.m.
Kentucky State Police, London police, the Asheville and Cherokee police departments, the FBI and Kentucky social workers assisted in the case.
Arrangements were being made Friday to get the girl back to North Carolina, Acciardo said.
Brick was being held at the Laurel County Correctional Center Friday under a $10,000 bond.