The good news is that Jade Beneby of Delray Beach, Fla. was found safe and unharmed after her abduction was reported on Tuesday.
The bad news for the 17-year-old high school senior is that she will now have to go through a juvenile first offender program or face perjury charges for lying to authorities on her true whereabouts.
“There was no abduction,” police spokeswoman Nicole Guerriero said at a press conference on Thursday. “We believe that it was fear, because she hadn’t gone to school, and there was some fear involved as far as her maybe getting in trouble when she got home.”
According to police the alleged kidnapping began when Beneby left home around 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 21 for her school bus stop in the Southern Florida city. A half hour later she sent a text message to her mother that said “Mommy, help me please, mommy help me. I’ve done all I can.”
This was immediately followed by another message claiming that she was in the trunk of a silver car.
A Florida Missing Child Alert was then issued followed by an eight-hour state-wide manhunt for the teen.
Authorities discovered Beneby safe at a hotel 50 miles from her home that afternoon. Police revealed at Thursday’s press conference that she had left voluntarily to see a young man who she had met online the previous night.
These details were still unclear Tuesday evening as the teen reunited with her mother, who was supported by several friends and family members at their home.
Despite her parents’ relief, Guerriero said they were victims in the whole episode, which likely cost the department plenty of money as well.
“This is a child,” Guerriero said. “Through collaboration with her and her family we have decided to put her in a juvenile first offender program. Any types of services she may need will be given to her through this program.”
Delray Beach police said the charge of perjury will be dropped if Beneby completes the first offender program.
The young man she met will not face charges.