HESPERIA (AP) — A Hesperia mother denies that her 13-year-old daughter ran away because she faced a forced marriage in Pakistan.
Melissa Bender of Hesperia told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that no arranged marriage was being planned — only a Pakistan vacation.
Jessie Marie Bender vanished last week. Her mother publicly begged for her return and said she feared the girl had run away with a man she met on Facebook.
After a massive search, the girl was found Wednesday at an Apple Valley motel. Authorities say the family’s Facebook report was false and the girl was hiding with help from an uncle who claimed she was running from a forced marriage.
That claim is being investigated. The girl and her three siblings are in protective custody.
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