More than a month after she was reported missing by her mother in Milwaukee, a 16-year-old girl has been found in Chicago after disturbing images of her being assaulted by a man surfaced on Facebook, according to the family and police.
The girl was reunited with her family after a community activist from Chicago got a tip Wednesday from someone who recognized the man, according to the girl’s mother. The activist and another woman went to a home on the South Side and were able to persuade him to let her go, according to her mother and police.
The girl, described by her mother as mentally challenged, was taken to a hospital and briefly interviewed by a patrol officer, according to Chicago police spokesman. The case has been assigned to detectives, who are investigating allegations that the girl was groped and otherwise physically abused.
Detectives are seeking a video of the assaults that was posted on Facebook and plan to interview the girl and her family, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Milwaukee police provided few details, but Guglielmi said authorities there believe the case could involve human trafficking. The Chicago Police Department has assigned the case to its joint FBI trafficking task force, he said.
The girl was reported missing by her mother on May 17. The mother said community activists scoured social media and came to Chicago about two weeks ago when someone said she had been spotted boarding a Greyhound bus to the city.
Acting on a tip, they went to a store in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side and viewed a surveillance video showing her. The girl’s long hair had been chopped short and she appeared disoriented, the family said.
Then on Wednesday, a video was posted to Facebook showing the girl being assaulted in the backyard of a home. A man is seen groping the girl and making sexual comments while someone off-camera is heard saying she was a good dog and mentioning a cage. In the background are children’s toys and a young dog. The girl appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Around the same time, Milwaukee police contacted Chicago seeking help in locating the teen, Guglielmi said. Police there said the girl was last seen boarding a bus to Chicago and that she was seen on the West Side.
Guglielmi said officers were dispatched to the area. The Human Trafficking Unit of the Cook County sheriff’s office also dispatched four units to the West Side, officials there said. As they searched, an activist got another tip that led to the girl’s discovery on the South Side, according to family and police.
The girl’s mother said she began her search with community activist Tory Lowe after Milwaukee police were slow to act.
“Tory has been by my side from beginning to end, all day every day,” said the mother, who has three other young children. “He kept me focused when I felt all was lost.”
The mother thanked everyone in Chicago who took her daughter’s disappearance seriously and worked to find her.
“I love all of them, words cannot express my love for Chicago and how it rallied behind me to find my daughter,” she said by phone on her way back to Milwaukee as her daughter slept in the back seat.
No one was reported in custody.
Chicago Tribune Paige Fry contributed.