August 27, 2008

Missing Marlin girl to return home

By Cindy V. Culp | Wednesday, August 27, 2008, 10:43 AM

A Marlin girl who was reported missing Monday and then found in Arkansas with an older man is expected to return home today.

Marlin Police Chief Tom Hamilton said the girl was reported missing by her family at 7:30 a.m. Monday and then found later that night in a hotel in Berryville, Ark. She was with Jesus Diaz Lopez, 24, who had lived on the same street as her family. Hamilton said he is unsure whether Lopez is currently living in a house on Gift Street.

Lopez has been charged with aggravated sexual assault of child in connection with the incident. No bond has been set for the charge, said an official with the Carroll County Detention Center in Arkansas. Lopez also has an immigration hold on him, the official said.

The detention center records list his age as 18, the detention official said. However, Hamilton said he believes Lopez is in his 20s.

Details of exactly what happened are sketchy because Marlin police have not talked to the girl, Hamilton said. But at this point, officials have no reason to believe she was forced to go with Lopez, he said.

Officers were able to track the pair to Arkansas, Hamilton said, after the girl’s father told police that Lopez has been following his daughters around. Officers then went and talked to others who lived in the house where he had been staying and were informed that Lopez was in Arkansas on the way to a job in North Carolina.

Hamilton said Lopez apparently travels from place to place building chicken houses.

According to a report from the Berryville Police Department, both Lopez and the girl tried to resist being taken into custody when officers found them at the motel. Several other members of the work crew were staying at the same motel, the report says.

The report also says the pair were packed up and appeared ready to leave the motel. Hamilton said they were apart to leave for North Carolina.

“They got them just in time,” he said.

Hamilton said he does not expect the girl to be charged as a runaway.

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