An 11-year-old Indiana girl and her Baptist school principal, who allegedly abducted her, were found by police in a hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., Tuesday afternoon. Both are reportedly safe.
William A. Beith, 28, was taken into custody on federal charges of coercing and enticing a minor into sexual acts and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes, said FBI Agent Doug Garrison in Indianapolis.
"He's in federal custody. We have the girl, yes," Garrison told The Associated Press.
When the girl's parents learned their daughter had been found unharmed, they cried and sighed with relief, said Jerry Kaifetz, a family friend who was at the family's home in Gary, Ind., when the call came from the FBI.
"The family is very, very relieved and very grateful that their prayers have been answered. Their faith hasn't wavered through this," said Kaifetz.
On Monday, letters arrived for the pair's parents, mailed from Oklahoma City. The girl's father said that his daughter "thinks she's in love," adding that she also told him she was all right.
The former principal also wrote his parents and said his actions had been "misunderstood."
Beith was charged in absentia Thursday with coercing and enticing a minor into sexual acts and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes in connection with the disappearance of the girl.
The sixth-grader from Gary was reported missing May 1 after an argument with her parents at a discount store. An employee told police she was crying and seen running in the store parking lot. Her parents believe she may have telephoned Beith.
Porucznik said the girl's letter was short and upbeat, "just letting her mom and dad know she's OK."
Her father, Joseph Marshall, said the upbeat tone was encouraging.
"She says she's all right, that she has new clothes, and is sorry that she's putting us through this," he said. "She said that she loves us and put kisses on the bottom of the letter. I am encouraged to know she's all right.
"She thinks this is OK. She thinks she's in love. I'm not even sure she understands what's wrong."
Beith told his parents how remorseful he was, asked his parents to apologize to everyone at the Liberty Baptist Academy in Lake Station and said his actions had been "misunderstood," but didn't elaborate.
"He wrote about how he had to run very fast," Porucznik said.
Beith was arrested in 1990, while still a teen-ager, and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor for exposing himself to a 15-year old girl.
He became Liberty Baptist's principal in 1998 after his father resigned after being arrested for soliciting a male undercover police officer for oral sex.
Charges against both men were dismissed after they received counseling under a deferred prosecution program, authorities said.
The Baptist school recently sent a letter to parents saying that the younger Beith is no longer employed at the school.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report