June 23, 2006 -- A Michigan teenager who met a man on the Internet and secretly flew to the Middle East to meet him before being captured by the FBI still plans to marry him, she says.
"I love him very much," Katherine Lester told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive television interview. "I'm definitely going to marry him."
Lester, who turned 17 on Wednesday, first met Abdullah Jimzawi, 20, seven months ago on the popular Web site MySpace.com. She said she fell in love with him, and together they devised a plan so the two could be together.
Lester lied to her parents, told them she needed a passport to go to Canada with friends, and then disappeared from her mother's home on June 5. The family was frantic.
"Please come home, Katherine," Mary Lester, Lester's sister, tearfully pleaded to cameras when the teenager disappeared. "Please. We need you."
Lester flew from Detroit to New York and then headed to Israel. The FBI tracked her flight and persuaded her to get off the plane during a layover in Amman, Jordan, on June 8. Her parents were relieved as their prayers had been answered.
"I was very excited, happy," said Terry Lester, the teenager's father. "But up until that moment I was terrified and sad and just praying every moment."
'We Can't Live Without Each Other
Lester never saw Jimzawi, but ABC News found him at his home in Jericho in the West Bank.
"We can't live without each other," said Jimzawi, a delivery man who lives at home with his parents. "No one is going to stop us from loving us, you know. And she is going to be with me, and she wants me to be with her. And we won't leave each other ever because we love each other."
Lester and Jimzawi still communicate, but the Lester family now supervises her online activity. A local court took away her passport.
"My initial reaction was to isolate her and lock her up, and keep her safe here in America," Terry Lester said. "But that's unrealistic. … If we were to do that, we would lose her confidence."
Dangers of the Internet?
Lester's story -- and separate incidents between online predators and Web users -- have placed MySpace under increased scrutiny.
"We take seriously our responsibility to provide a safe and well-lit community for all our members," MySpace.com's chief security officer Hemanshu Nigam said. "Every page of our site provides a direct link to safety tips. … The Internet is a powerful tool for connecting people with one another and, at the same time, parents are learning that they must teach their teens how to be safe and smart online."
The Lesters say that they do not blame MySpace for their daughter's disappearance, and that other parents shouldn't fear the worst from the Internet.
"I blame myself," Terry Lester said. "But most importantly I blame the breakdown in communication between my family [and Katherine]."
Terry Lester is divorced from Katherine's mother, and shares joint custody of his daughter. The divorced parents partly blame the miscommunication in their separate households for the ordeal.
"Divorce is so prevalent right now, and we're raising kids in separate homes," said Krista Lester, Katherine's stepmother. "We need to know what's going on in each other's homes."
Taking It Slow
Lester is not accused of breaking any laws, but this week authorities asked a judge to decide whether to classify her as a runaway. If she's declared a runaway, she'll be supervised by a court until her 18th birthday.
Lester says she doesn't intend to try to meet Jimzawi in person until she is 18. She hopes he will come to the United States to marry her.
"Now that our relationship is out in the open, I feel like I don't have to go there to talk to him or to be with him," she said. "Now that this is all over with, I know that if I would have told them [my parents] about him, they would have understood my feelings for him."
Lester did not say whether she would convert to Islam to marry Jimzawi, but said she was researching the Middle East and its culture at her parents' suggestion.
Jimzawi also says talking is enough for now but sooner or later they will be together.
"No one can stop us, you know," he said. "I can wait forever and ever and ever. … Till the end of the world."