DENTON, N.C. (WGHP) — Officials with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office held a news conference on Monday to provide details in the search for Savannah Childress who was found safe in Arkansas on Sunday.
Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons said the Denton 14-year-old was found safe by police in Lonoke County, Arkansas, which is nearly 800 miles away from her Davidson County home.
Davidson County deputies began investigating her disappearance on Feb. 11. They believe she left the state immediately after being picked up.
Authorities said Savannah was using her school laptop to communicate with 38-year-old William Ice from Pennsylvania.
Simmons said the school laptops have firewall protection that is in place when students are in school but not when they’re learning virtually from home.
Ten other juveniles in Alamance County were contacted by Ice on their school computers, according to Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson.
Deputies said Ice targeted middle school aged children through email accounts, Skype, and multiple sites that leave as little of a digital footprint as possible.
Simmons said that he was confident Savannah wasn’t in North Carolina as community members searched Denton on Saturday but chose not to release more information in order to protect Savannah.
Police and community members came together and worked against the clock to find her.
“The good Lord was looking out for that child for her to be found alive and coming home,” said Tanzy Sierra, who lives in Denton. “Relieved and glad that somebody was able to find her as quick as they did.”
Police officers in Lonoke County, Arkansas, spotted Ice’s SUV at a McDonald’s parking lot around 8 p.m. Saturday night. They said Ice began following orders but then started shooting at them, injuring one of the officers.
Ice fled the scene and crashed on an Arkansas highway.
When the vehicle came to a stop, police said Childress got out and was taken into police custody. Ice was found in the vehicle suffering from what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He died in a hospital on Sunday.
Investigators said he was a suspect in several incidents that involve attempting to kidnap or sexually assault children.
“The fact that she was found no matter what at the end of the day is the greatest thing of all,” said William Justus, the president of Reddy Foxx Family and organizer of a search party for Childress. “Watch who you talk to. Watch who your kids talk to.”
Childress family friend Kandi Bremer shared this statement in part with sister station WGHP:
“The family is so grateful for the outpouring of love, support, and prayers that their daughter has received. Just continue to please pray for them all as they try to overcome and heal from everything that has happened.”
Police said this is an important reminder to talk with your children about what they may be doing or who they may be communicating with online.
Multiple agencies, including the FBI, are still investigating the case.