Autistic Georgia girl, 16, who may have runaway with older man found safe, report says

An autistic 16-year-old Georgia girl who may have run off with an older man has been found safe in New York City, WGCL-TV reported Friday.

Mary Pridgen, of Alpharetta, who has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, had been reported missing Monday.

“Got a call from (Child Protective Services) in New York City, said she walked up to a police officer 1:30 in the morning and said, ‘I’m a runaway, please call my dad,’” her father Glen Pridgen, 49, told the station.

Pridgen told WXIA-TV his daughter ran away after he “grounded her” when she came home with an expensive diamond engagement ring. He learned that a 44-year-old man bought it for her. He said the man was referring to her daughter as his “fiancée.”

But Mary did nothing wrong, under Georgia law the station reported.

“In the state of Georgia, it is not a crime for a 16-year-old to be in a relationship with someone older,” Alpharetta Police Officer Jeff Ross said. “That is the age of consent.”

Pridgen believes Georgia’s age of consent law needs to be changed so that other fathers of 16-year-old girls don’t have to go through what he went through.