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Michigan Teen in Seclusion After Overseas MySpace Trip, Lawyer Says

A 16-year-old girl who flew to the Middle East to visit a man she met on MySpace.com was in seclusion to escape the attention surrounding her travels, an attorney for the girl's family said Monday.

Lawyer Renee Wood said Katherine R. Lester reunited with her family after she arrived in Flint on a plane late Friday, then went with her father to an undisclosed location.

"Katherine does not want the media attention. The parents don't want the media attention on their daughter," Wood said.

The girl, who turns 17 on June 21, apparently planned to visit a man whose MySpace account describes him as a 25-year-old from Jericho on the West Bank, authorities have said. After the FBI helped track her to the airport in Amman, Jordan, U.S. authorities persuaded her to board a return flight.

MySpace.com is a social networking Web site with more than 72 million members that lets users post photos, blogs and journals. There have been scattered accounts of sexual predators targeting minors they met through the site.

The girl seems to be fine, Wood said at a news conference Monday. The teen's mother, Shawn Lester, and her sister, 19-year-old Mary, stood with Wood at the news conference but did not speak to reporters.

"You will not hear from the family today because they are so traumatized by this incident," Wood said. "They are unable to really talk about it and are still putting it together."

Katherine Lester disappeared June 5 from the house where she lives with her mother in Gilford, a hamlet about 80 miles north of Detroit in Michigan's agricultural Thumb region. Her father lives in Grand Blanc Township.

Wood said the girl called her mother that day and the next to say she was OK and promised each time that she'd be home the following day, but she wouldn't say where she was. Her mother called police Wednesday.

Lester apparently stayed at hotels in Bay City and New York before boarding a flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, with a stop in Amman, but other details about her travels were still unclear, Wood said.

"How does a 16-year-old fly to another country without parental permission? How does she get the money, the tickets? How does she check into a hotel, as we know that she did?" Wood said.

Tuscola County Sheriff Tom Kern said the girl did not want to return home when authorities approached her at the airport in Amman, but once they realized she was 16 and her mother wanted her back, they seized her passport.

Authorities were trying to determine whether any laws were broken. The age of sexual consent in Michigan is 16.

Wood said the FBI is investigating the man and his background. The FBI and sheriff's investigators also said they were interested in a television station's tape of a purported interview with the man.

WNEM-TV in Saginaw broadcast a telephone interview with a man who said he actually was 20 and identified himself only as Abdullah.

In the interview Saturday, he said he was a wealthy businessman who met the teen on MySpace seven months ago. He said he wanted to marry her and sent her money for a plane ticket to visit him.

The station said it got the man's MySpace identity from Mary Lester, who found it on a computer they share.

MySpace forbids youngsters 13 and under from joining and provides special protections for those 14 and 15 — only people on their list of friends can view their profiles. Older users also have the option of restricting certain personal data so it can be seen only by people they have identified as friends.