The mother of a missing Colorado teen says she had no idea her daughter had struck up a friendship with a soldier she met through MySpace, and now police have interviewed the man in connection with the girl's disappearance.
Police are in the front range of the Rocky Mountains today looking for 19-year-old Judilianna Lawrence, who was last seen Friday morning.
Known as "Judi" to her friends and family, the Colorado Springs teen was supposed to get on a bus to school Friday morning to meet up with classmates for a bowling trip. Instead, police believe she took off with a man who drives a yellow 2000 Jeep Cherokee and had posted threatening remarks on his MySpace page claiming to be a "cold-blooded killer," according to the girl's family.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Robert Jaworski said the man is a soldier in the Army and is a "person of interest" who has been questioned but is not being held.
Jaworski was one of about 30 members of a search and rescue team that tackled rough terrain in a rural area of El Paso County on horseback and ATVs.
Police do not know for sure whether Lawrence was in the area, but "it's close to her house and he's been known to frequent this area," he said.
Jaworski declined to comment on what led police to the man or what the man said about his connection with Lawrence during his questioning with police, citing the ongoing investigation. The man is stationed out of nearby Fort Carson, Jaworski said, and the military is aiding in the investigation.
Mental Disorder Diagnosed Early
Lawrence's mother, Aekyong Lawrence, said her daughter was a "sweetheart" who enjoyed cartoons and was diagnosed with a mental disorder in grade school and attends special education classes.
Her attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder caused her to have trouble focusing on several things at once, her mother said, but if someone took the time to explain things slowly she was fine.
"If you tell her 10 things all at once she doesn't know it," Aekyong Lawrence said. "But if you do it step by step she does it really good."
MySpace Link to 'Cold-Blooded Killer'
Lawrence, the second of three daughters, was just getting up Friday morning and still in her pajamas when she left for work, Aekyong Lawrence said.
Aekyong Lawrence said she said goodbye to the teenager and reminded her to take the family's dog outside, to which Lawrence replied "OK Mommy" in typically exasperated teenage fashion.
Aekyong Lawrence said the teenager tried to wake up her older sister, Evia, before she was supposed to leave for school, but Evia fell back asleep. When Evia tried calling Lawrence on her cell phone at around 11:30 a.m. Friday, there was no answer.
Subsequent calls to her school revealed that Lawrence had never made it there. Her school class had left without her, assuming she was not joining it on the bowling trip.
Desperate to figure out what had happened to her sister, Evia Lawrence broke into Lawrence's MySpace page and discovered that her sister had been using the social networking site to communicate with the 20-something man.
Evia Lawrence said she'd warned her sister about using MySpace, telling her to be careful and "don't go meeting people over the Internet."
But judging by Lawrence's conversations with this man, who Evia Lawrence said was pictured on his page wearing a military uniform, Friday was not the first time they had met in person.
"She'd been talking to him for a long time," Evia Lawrence said, noting that neither she nor anyone else knew of their friendship and didn't know who he is. "I think it started right after she first got her MySpace page -- about February."
But more disturbing than their secret correspondence were the comments the Lawrences say they read on the man's MySpace page.
"He said that he was a cold-blooded killer and that he could kill without mercy or reason," Evia Lawrence said.
Aekyong Lawrence said the last correspondence between her daughter and the man, sent Thursday night, was frustratingly sparse -- they had agreed to meet but with no set time, location or planned activities.
Jaworski said police today are searching an area of the mountains on the south side of Colorado Springs known as Pike's Peak. The dogs they are using are trained in cadaver searches, though Jaworski said police don't yet know whether Lawrence's disappearance involves foul play.
"We're hoping it's a rescue mission," he said, "but we're not sure right now."