MERRILLVILLE, Ind. – Law enforcement officers around the country on Friday stepped up their search for a Baptist school principal who allegedly kidnapped and sexually abused an 11-year old Indiana girl.
Officials say William A. Beith, who was arrested 10 years ago for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, abducted Gabrielle Grace Marshall, a sixth-grader in his school. Beith was believed to be driving a White Dodge Durango, with Indiana license plate No. 245627L.
The car was last seen in Tennessee, but had been in Ohio on Wednesday, when officials say Beith used an oil company credit card to buy gasoline.
Beith on Thursday was charged with coercing and enticing a minor into sexual acts and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes. Details of the charges have been sealed in court.
Beith was arrested in 1990, when he was 18, for contributing to the delinquency of a 15-year-old after being found partially disrobed in a car, authorities told Fox News. After six months' deferred prosecution, the charges against him were dropped.
This is Beith's first year as principal of Liberty Baptist Academy in Lake Station, a private school. The school has fired him, and classes were cancelled today so students could receive counseling.
Liberty Baptist Academy was founded by Beith's father, William S. Beith, who left the school following his own arrest in 1998 for public indecency. Police say the elder Beith was accused of soliciting oral sex from an undercover police officer.
Prosecutors gave him six months to get counseling and stay out of trouble, and charges were later dropped, an Indiana state attorney told Fox News' Jeff Goldblatt.
Gabrielle Grace Marshall was reported missing from Gary, Ind., Tuesday after she had a spat with her parents at a Wal-Mart store. An employee told police the girl was crying and was last seen running in the store parking lot. Her parents believe she may have telephoned Beith.
Steven E. Ibison of the FBI's office in Merrillville said authorities had received information that Beith was spotted Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn. Beith used a gasoline credit card in Troy, Ohio, on Wednesday, the FBI said.
"We believe at that time, the girl was in good heath," Ibison said. "Our main concern right now is to get her back safely."
Daniel Marshall, the girl's older brother, said Beith had been giving private, after-school tutoring lessons to the girl.
Gabrielle's father, Joseph Marshall, told Fox News Friday morning that his family had been concerned about Beith and had made sure their daughter wasn't left alone with him during the after-school tutoring sessions. He had sometimes given her rides home from school, the family said.
"There was nothing to me that he had a special interest in my daughter," Joseph Marshall said. "We really don't know what happened, but she's gone and we want her home."