Missing teenager found in man’s bedroom under trap door

Dec 29, 2023, 11:05 AM

STANFORD, Ky. (AP) — Police in Kentucky found a missing 16-year-old North Carolina girl under a trap door in the bedroom of a 34-year-old man after the man’s mother called authorities to report a domestic dispute between the two, according to arrest reports.

When deputies with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the home on Christmas Day, Zachary Jones told them the girl had fled, but his mother disputed that and deputies began searching to check on her safety, the reports said. She was found “inside a bed room in a cut out door in the floor covered by a rug,” the report said.

Deputies later determined that she had been reported missing from Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Dec. 6.

The girl told deputies that Jones picked her up after making contact a few weeks earlier and that he originally told her he was 19. When they met and she questioned why he looked older, he told her he was 25, but she found out after getting to his home and meeting his family that he was 34, the reports said. She said he threatened her and told her to tell people she was 18.

She told officers that he had a gun and had threatened to kill her several times and that on the day they were found, they had used drugs and he had choked and assaulted her, the arrest reports said.

Jones was originally taken into custody because he tried to destroy drug paraphernalia that deputies found in the home while searching for the girl, reports said.

Jones admitted using drugs with her and having an altercation, but he denied choking her, one report said. Marks were visible on her throat, it said. Jones and the girl both said they had sex on multiple occasions, and Jones admitted to luring her by using an electronic device and taking her from her grandmother’s home in North Carolina, the reports said.

He was charged with multiple crimes, including third-degree rape, unlawful imprisonment, assault, strangulation, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful transaction with a minor.

It wasn’t clear whether Jones has an attorney, but he told WKYT-TV from jail that the girl appeared older and he was trying to help her when drove to North Carolina to pick her up.

“Her grandma kicked her out. She didn’t appear to be that age (16). She had all kinds of piercings,” Jones said.

He also said he didn’t hide her when police began searching his home.

“She hid on her own free will. She was actually in the bed when police officers first came in there,” Jones said.

The girl’s grandfather, Eugene Baughman, told the station that she ran away from her grandmother’s home, and they reported her missing after losing communication with her.

Baughman said he doesn’t think Jones was trying to help the teen.

“I don’t think he was rescuing anyone. I think he was trying to find another person to victimize,” Baughman said.

Jones’ mother told WRAL-TV in North Carolina that she thought the girl was an adult.

“I asked him how old she was. He said, ‘She’s 19.’ So, I took that as the truth,” Rhona Jones told the station. “I believed him, because a lot of girls looked older than they are.”

She also said the girl didn’t appear to be held against her will.

“To me, she willingly came with him,” Rhonda Jones said. “I just feel like, they’d probably been talking. I don’t know how long he’s been texting her. From what the cops said that she was unhappy where she was at, and she felt like she was cared for and came with him.”

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Missing teenager found in man’s bedroom under trap door