APPLE VALLEY (CBS) — A missing Hesperia teen was found safe Wednesday morning in an Apple Valley hotel room.
Jessie Bender, 13, was found at unharmed Wednesday, but authorities say the girl’s family withheld critical information, and as a result, delayed the investigation and recovery of their daughter.
Authorities say their investigation began when the teen was first reported missing to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and Hesperia Police Department on Feb. 24 by her mother. The girl’s family said they last saw Jessie around 1:15 a.m. on Feb. 21. They told investigators that the teen may have runaway because she didn’t want to go on a two-month trip to Pakistan with her mother.
Several days later, investigators contacted the Bender family again. Jesse’s mother then told detectives that she thought her daughter was abducted by someone she met on Facebook. Upon receiving that new information, the sheriff’s and police departments contacted the FBI, United State’s Marshall’s Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Los Angeles, Glendora and Chicago police departments.
According to Hesperia police, those agencies conducted an investigation into the possible abduction of Jesse Bender, but were unable to uncover any evidence that supported the claim. During their search, information surfaced from cell phone and computer records that led authorities to focus on the Bender family.
Authorities say they discovered that a Bender family member hid Jessie at an Apple Valley hotel out of fear the teenage would be taken to Pakistan for an arranged marriage. The family later took detectives to the hotel where they found the teen unharmed.
Jessie and her three siblings have since been taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Family Services while detectives complete an investigation.
A report will be given to the District Attorney for review and possible charges.