Two 13-year-old girls from Andover are safe after a frantic search for them Monday night and Tuesday morning, and the 23-year-old man whom they were with is in custody and could face criminal charges.
The Anoka County Sheriff's Office asked Tuesday morning for help from the public in finding the girls, who had not been seen since Monday evening. About an hour after that call went out, the girls were found safe in Burnsville with the suspect.
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The two girls, who are neighbors, had last been seen in the area of 159th Ave and Swallow Street in Andover around 7:45 p.m. Monday, according to Anoka County Sheriff's spokesman Paul Sommer.
He told KARE 11 the girls were picked up by the 23-year-old man, whom they had been communicating with on social media for several days and had arranged to meet.
Sommer said the messages had become sexual in nature, and added that the girls had been messaging other men as well. He called the situation "every parent's worst nightmare," according to KARE.
It's apparently the first time the girls had met someone in person. Police said the two girls had "no idea" of the gravity of the situation, according to FOX 9.
The suspect coaches two sports for Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Apple Valley, Sommer said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He also was a volunteer coach at East Ridge High School in the South Washington County School District last school year.
Cristo Rey officials have placed the suspect on leave from his part-time coaching position, according to the Star Tribune.
“We are cooperating fully with the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and are encouraging our school families to discuss any interactions that their children may have had with [the suspect] and to come forward with any concerns,” the school said Tuesday, according to the paper.
East Ridge principal Aaron Harper sent an email to parents Tuesday afternoon.
We wanted you to be aware that the individual being referenced volunteered as an assistant coach with our program for the 2014 season. He became a volunteer assistant coach following an approved background check and positive reference reviews. He does not currently hold any position with the district, and he will not be returning to our district in any capacity.
The suspect is currently being held in the Anoka County Jail, and officials say they'll decide by Wednesday whether to charge him with a crime.