Mom of missing Washington teen says her daughter's 'trying to sort this all out' after being rescued in MI

The mother of a 14-year-old girl who disappeared from Mount Vernon, Washington is speaking out after she was found alive in Michigan. 

The teen is home, getting support from family and friends. Her accused assailant and abductor, who is also a convicted sex offender, has been arrested. 

She says her daughter is readjusting to life back at home after the frightening ordeal.

"It’s confusing being a 14-year-old girl without something like this happening to you," said Sarah Merrill, the teen's mom. 

Merrill says suspect Keith Freerksen was talking with her daughter online, telling her to delete any trace of him before she disappeared. She feels fortunate to have her back alive. 

"She went out her window, her bedroom window," said Merrill.

Merrill contracted police after she realized she was gone on a Saturday morning in early January. 

"She had taken some clothes and belongings with her. I immediately started looking for her, went to a friend’s house, and it was that first friend’s house where I first heard the concern that she may have been speaking to a man online," said Merrill. 

After more than three weeks of waiting, investigators tracked down the teen and the man accused of abusing her, thousands of miles away near South Haven, Michigan. 

"As more and more time went on, I was worried that we weren’t going to find her in good health or even alive," said Merrill.  

Merrill said clues found under a ride-share app that the girl had used at some point, reportedly helped to lead police to Freerksen.  Merrill says that a car found in his driveway was also tracked on a trip to Washington and back. 

"A lot of big hugs, big tears," said Merrill 

Investigators in Van Buren County say Freerksen is accused of grooming her online using several apps. 

"They did move to other platforms to continue communication after Omegle shut down," said Merrill. 


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Although Merrill monitored her social media usage and had limited her use of the internet at home and school, there were loopholes. 

"He was instructing her to delete history, and so she was deleting history. There wasn’t a lot to go on," said Merrill. "She also had put him in, as an Alexa contact and was using that in her room. I did not fully understand until, in hindsight, she was able to add a contact, and then deleted and removed all the contact through Alexa as well."

She says her daughter opened up about some things after arriving back home, but says it's going to be a long road. She says she is going to have to recover physically and psychologically after living through a traumatic experience.

"She is relieved to be home. She did miss her family and friends, and she’s just trying to sort this all out," she said. 

Merrill says that detectives and CPS workers in Michigan were incredibly supportive and kind. She says Freerksen is facing nearly 10 felony charges in Michigan. He has a criminal history in Florida as well, where he was convicted of sexual offenses. 

 "My first warning is to teenagers. Anything can happen. Nobody’s safe from it. If you are in an odd situation, let someone know," said Merrill. "If you are concerned or get a weird feeling, if you know a friend that is getting themselves into a situation, don’t ignore it. Don’t let it go by. Predators are out there, and you aren’t safe from them."