MONETTE, AR (KAIT) – The Craighead County Sheriff Department says they have found a missing Nebraska girl who's been missing since late January, and have arrested a local minister.
"We were contacted by Nebraska police Sunday night. They had done some searches and found she'd been in contact with a man in Monette," said Detective Ron Richardson with the Craighead County Sheriff's Department.
According to the Craighead County Sheriff's Department, Monette Church of Christ minister Charles Hughes is being held at the Craighead County Detention Center on sexual assault charges in connection with her disappearance.
"We essentially found out that they had been in contact and he had in fact brought her to Arkansas. During the course of the interview, he admitted to having sexual relations with the juvenile," said Richardson
The teenager told Region 8 News off camera that she is the cousin of Hughes' wife. The teenager had changed her appearance. The seventeen-year-old went on to says she was not kidnapped and came to Arkansas on her own free will.
Deputies say she was found at 310 Braden Drive in Monette, and is cooperating with police.
Deputies are currently serving search warrants, investigating cell phone and computer records.
The Monette Police Department was recently contacted by Nebraska authorities in regards to the missing 17-year-old girl from Fairbury, Nebraska. Local authorities had been searching for the girl ever since.
Deputies say a woman in Monette alerted them of the missing girl after receiving an e-mail alert from Region 8 News. "When I received that alert on my cell phone from Ch. 8 as breaking news, my heart broke because I thought I recognized her. I did alert the city police here in Monette as soon as I recognized her picture," said the neighbor, who requested to remain anonymous. The neighbor said the teen was a tenant at one of her rental properties.
The FBI is also involved and exploring state and federal charges. Craighead County Sheriff Deputies say more charges could be filed.
As for the teen, Richardson says the department is just thankful she's safe. "She's going to go back home to family and hopefully things will work out between her and her family," said Richardson.
With an update on the charges Hughes is facing, Region 8 News is withholding the teen's name.