A Marine was detained last month after a missing 14-year-old girl was found in the barracks of a California base, authorities said.
Military police at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Oceanside found the teenager June 28, just over two weeks after her grandmother reported her missing to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, said Melissa Aquino, a sheriff's spokesperson.
Capt. Charles Palmer, the director of communications strategy and operations for the 1st Marine Logistics Group, confirmed in a statement that an unidentified “Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group was taken into custody for questioning by Naval Criminal Investigative Services,” the Navy and Marine law enforcement agency, on June 28.
Palmer said that the Marine remains in the custody of his command and that he has not been formally charged.
“This command takes this matter and all allegations very seriously,” he said.
Aquino said the sheriff’s department and the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force are “supporting NCIS with the investigation.”
Representatives for the state attorney general's office did not immediately respond to inquiries Sunday morning about the human trafficking task force's involvement.
The news was first reported by NBC San Diego.
Aquino said that the girl's grandmother reported her missing on June 13 and that she said the girl had run away from home four days earlier. The grandmother said the girl had run away before but always returned home quickly, Aquino said.
Authorities entered the girl's information into missing person databases, including that of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the sheriff's office said.
She was subsequently returned to her grandmother, said Aquino, who added that detectives interviewed the teen and that the family was "offered services." The sheriff's office did not immediately respond to a follow-up question seeking more detail about what kind of services the family was offered.
The girl has not been publicly identified. The sheriff's office said in a statement that it does not release information that could identify victims who are minors.
Jeff Houston, a spokesperson for NCIS, said in a statement, "Out of respect for the investigative process, NCIS does not comment on, confirm details relating to, or confirm the existence of ongoing investigations."
Lt. David LaDieu, the sheriff's department's media relations director, said in a statement that NCIS is handling the investigation and that "the only involvement we have had is the recovering the juvenile as she was listed missing from our jurisdiction."
The Teen Line provides peer-based support from trained teenagers who are available every evening to field calls and texts. Call 310-855-HOPE (4673) or toll-free at 800-TLC-TEEN from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET or text TEEN to 839863 from 3 and 6 p.m. ET. Teen Line also responds to emails and has a message board.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached toll-free 24 hours a day at 1-888-373-7888. Support is available in more than 200 languages. The hotline can also be reached by texting BEFREE to 233733. Authorities urge those who suspect trafficking to also contact local police.