Nearly three months after they met on the Internet, a 13-year-old Rocky Point girl clambered out of her bedroom window and ran away with a California man, boarding an Amtrak train to travel across the country, police said Saturday.
Their trip lasted about 19 hours.
Police stopped John Vertrees, 22, and the girl in Rochester at about 11:30 p.m. Friday, Suffolk Det. Luis Perez said. Using the girl's phone records, police identified Vertrees and discovered he had booked two train tickets to Sacramento, where he lives, the detective said.
Rochester police said Vertrees was planning to move her to California. "That's where they were on the way to," said Rochester Officer LaRon Singletary.
By late Saturday morning, police had flown to Rochester and brought the girl back to her mother, and Vertrees faced misdemeanor unlawful imprisonment charges in Rochester. The girl's name was not released.
Vertrees was awaiting arraignment last night on $500 police bail at the Monroe County jail. Perez said Vertrees will be brought to Suffolk and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor.
"Even though she probably voluntarily went with this guy, due to her age she can't consent," Singletary said.
The two met on an online chat site in mid-January, Perez said at a news briefing. They had several conversations on the site and through e-mail before deciding to meet. Vertrees purchased Amtrak tickets and traveled to New York, getting a hotel near Rocky Point, Perez said. Police said they did not know when Vertrees arrived.
On Wednesday night, he climbed into the girl's first-floor bedroom window, police said. Perez said the two had a brief encounter, but would not comment further.
Then, at about 4 a.m. Friday, police said, Vertrees called the girl on her cell phone several times - a signal for her to climb out of her window and head to a cab nearby, where he was waiting. They took the cab to Penn Station and boarded the Amtrak train, Perez said.
By 9 a.m. Friday, the girl's mother noticed she was gone and notified police, he said.
Police tracked the train the pair had taken to Rochester, where Amtrak police stopped it. Rochester police boarded the train to find the two asleep and "snuggled together," Perez said.
Said Singletary: "I think they were stunned and shocked when the police officers approached them."
The girl later told Suffolk police she had fallen in love with Vertrees and thought he was 15, Perez said. "She realized she made a mistake," he said.
Vertrees told police the girl had said she was 21 and that he spent a lot of money to come to get her, Suffolk police said.
With Matthew Chayes