A 12-year-old Florida girl stole her father's car and picked up her friend and the pair drove across state lines, possibly to meet a person they had met online, officials said — but the girls turned themselves in after they saw their faces on TV.
A missing child alert was issued Thursday morning for the 12-year-old and a 14-year-old after the girls were last seen in their hometown, Lake Butler, Florida, believed to be traveling on Interstate 10 toward Louisiana. NBC News is not identifying the girls.
Chief Deputy Capt. Lyn Williams with the Union County Sheriff's Office said the department had information that the girls could have been traveling to "meet someone they met online."
It's not clear who or how old that person was.
Alerts were issued with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, with special attention to areas around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Williams said.
Officials said that no adult was with them and that no foul play was expected.
The girls ultimately saw themselves on TV in a missing children alert at a gas station in Alabama and turned themselves in to local authorities.
The same afternoon, the Union County Sheriff's Office announced that the alert had been canceled and that the girls had been found safe in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, about 400 miles from their hometown.
Multiple agencies looked for the girls, including the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Williams said that there were some “suspicious circumstances” that raised “red flags” about the online person the girls may have been trying to meet and that the matter was turned over to the FBI.