ARLINGTON, Texas — The 13-year-old girl whose disappearance triggered an Amber Alert on Thursday morning was found safe in an Arlington apartment about 100 miles from Honey Grove, Texas - her hometown.
“I feel a big relief,” said Nikki McKinney, the teenage victim’s aunt. “It’s like something came off my heart, like somebody glued it back together.”
Police charged a 31-year-old man with harboring a runaway in the case. He faces additional charges related to child abuse, according to jail records.
McKinney said she was home in Maumelle, Arkansas, when she got a call that her niece was missing.
She immediately drove to Honey Grove.
When police there tracked the girl’s phone to Arlington, she and the rest of the family made the hour-and-a-half drive themselves.
McKinney said she worked with Arlington police, calling and texting her niece so investigators could pinpoint her exact location.
On Thursday morning, they located the teen at The Vine apartments in north Arlington, near River Legacy Park.
McKinney and Arlington police say the suspect and victim met online.
“We are talking about a grown man dealing with a 13-year-old,” said McKinney.
She said police in Honey Grove initially considered the girl a runaway.
An Amber Alert was issued more than 24 hours after her family first contacted police.
McKinney questions that delay and wants other families to use what happened to her niece as a warning.
"Watch everything your kids are doing on social media and online," she said.
When McKinney spoke with WFAA on Thursday evening, she had not yet seen her niece and predicted she might cry when she finally did.
“I might get on my knees and say, God is good,” she said.