A 13-year-old Virginia girl is back home after being lured away by a man she'd been chatting with for at least six months through a Microsoft Xbox 360 game, police said.
Andrew Holloway, 21, who allegedly traveled to Evington, Va. from his home in Rhode Island, has been charged with a sex crime in connection with the case, according to police.
The teen was the third child in recent weeks to have left home to meet adults they came in contact with through an Xbox game. The others were a 16-year-old girl from Detroit and a 12-year-old boy from Ohio.
The 13-year-old Virginia girl first met Holloway through the game system's chat capabilities and then continued the relationship on the Internet after her Xbox broke, police said.
Bedford County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ricky Gardner said the girl was reported missing Tuesday evening by her father. An hour prior to his call, Gardner said, his office had received a tip from a neighbor about two suspicious people walking along the road near her home, later determined to be the teen and Holloway.
"Every time a car would come, they'd jump over to the wood line" to hide, Gardner told ABCNews.com today.
Police responded and found no trace of the pair, but when the girl's father reported his daughter missing a short time later a team of police, firefighters and K-9 units responded to the area as well as a state police helicopter with thermal imaging equipment.
While police, family and friends were searching for the blond teenager, she and Holloway were apparently figuring out their next move. Ultimately, Gardner said, they ended up knocking on the door of a house about a mile away from her home the next day, asking to use the telephone.
While one person at the home distracted them, the other, who recognized the teen from the news reports, called 911. Police responded and arrested Holloway, charging him with three counts of "carnal knowledge," Gardner said, and two counts of soliciting a female younger than 15 over the Internet.
Messages left with the public defender's office, which is representing Holloway, were not immediately returned. Holloway, who is being held without bond, is due in court Tuesday for a bond hearing.
"They said they were going to run away to Canada," Gardner said, adding that once together they changed their destination to Arizona. "I don't think they thought it through well enough. I think the problem was he ran out of money," Gardner said.
A message left at the family's home wasn't immediately returned today, but the teen's mother told the local ABC affiliate yesterday that if her daughter wants to use the computer from now on, she'll do so with her parents at her side.
"We shielded our child from going outside," she told the affiliate. "But what happened was it came in. It came in through an Xbox."
Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer and founder of WiredSafety.org, said because children, especially those as young as 13, have little sense of danger in these situations it is up to the parents to understand and monitor their gaming use.
"Parents absolutely have to understand about interactive game devices and what they do before they put them into kids' hands," she told ABCNews.com today.
All current gaming systems from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have Internet connectability.
"The good thing is, if you're on Xbox, we've got Microsoft behind it," Aftab said.