Missing Indiana teen found safe in Kentucky after intensive four-day search

By Erica Morse
Publisher, Victims News Online

Published 8:45 p.m., November 25, 2023
Updated 8:45 p.m., November 27th, 2023

(SOUTH BEND, IN/GEORGETOWN, KY) — A 16-year-old girl who vanished from a relative’s home in northern Indiana in the middle of the night has been found safe in Kentucky.

Late this afternoon, a silver, Saturn Astra with Michigan license plates was stopped in Georgetown, KY, for a traffic infraction. When the officer ran the driver’s information, he received a hit on the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) that the vehicle – and driver – were wanted in connection with the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl from South Bend, Indiana. After the officer called for backup, the driver, 22-year-old William Isaac Sparks of Otsego, Michigan, was taken into custody by deputies from the Scott County Sheriff’s Department. Although he was initially expected to be charged with felony kidnapping, the girl’s family has just been advised by authorities in Kentucky that the St. Joseph County, IN, Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges.

The missing girl, whose name has now been redacted per VNO policy, was detained by a second deputy; he contacted the girl’s parents by phone to let them know she was found safe, and she is being held in police custody until their arrival.

The girl vanished from her Aunt’s home after a Thanksgiving dinner at 1:42 a.m. on Friday, November 24th, 2023, in South Bend, Indiana. According to her father, she was reportedly chatting with a 22-year-old man named William Isaak Sparks of Michigan, when the conversation turned real-time.

Sparks reportedly followed the girl and her family to a Thanksgiving dinner, then repeatedly messaged her to meet him outside. Hours later — now deemed to be at 1:42 a.m. — the girl stepped outside after sending a Snapchat message saying, “I only have a minute”, and suddenly vanished. She was wearing no shoes at the time of her disappearance, was wearing pajamas, and did not take her cell phone with her.

Adding immediate urgency to her disappearance was a ransom message sent to the girl’s family on Saturday evening via Facebook messenger, demanding money in exchange for her safe return. The messages, sent from an online profile using the name, ‘Dave McKenney’, demanded cash payment from the girl’s parents, claiming she was one of “several others” who were being held against their will. Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Michigan State Police were then consulted, with the team of Jensen Investigations of Indiana running the on-ground search effort and social media blitz.

The ransom note, which was turned over to Federal Authorities, was determined by Sunday to be an unrelated hoax — one often plaguing parents of missing children when their faces are plastered online as a call for help.

Once state and Federal officials were contacted regarding the ransom demand, the family and private investigators were advised to “flush out” the two, by soliciting information from teenagers in Michigan who were in direct contact with Sparks. From there, officials were able to track the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and other hidden networks being used to communicate with the girl’s relatives, narrowing the search area to Allegan County, Michigan.

It was later determined that the mother of the 22-year-old man gave him cash the day after the girl’s disappearance, leading to intensified scrutiny that friends and relatives of the man were aiding him in his evasion of authorities.

More information will be updated as made available to our team; the girl’s family would like to express their gratitude to the VNO audience for their quick response to their pleas for help in finding their daughter.

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