Missing Girl Found Safe

Tuesday, October 2nd 2007, 1:29 pm
By: News On 6

BARTOW, Fla. (AP) A teenage girl was found alive and well after she sneaked out of her house to rendezvous with a high-risk sex offender she met on Myspace.com, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Alyssa Frank, 15, was found safe in the Florida Panhandle a day after she disappeared, but the man accused of running off with her was still on the loose, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Judd pleaded with the public for any tips to find the suspect he identified as William Joe Mitchell, 46, of Jacksonville, who was believed to be armed.

Mitchell met the girl online and cultivated a relationship, Judd said. She believed Mitchell was 24, Judd told CNN.

Alyssa was found at a Wal-Mart in DeFuniak Springs where Mitchell apparently dropped her off, Judd said. She acknowledged her identity to authorities and was forthcoming, Judd said.

The girl's parents were ``elated,'' Judd said.

Judd said Alyssa sneaked out of her house in Bartow to meet him at about 3 a.m. Monday and was reported missing a little more than three hours later.

``Alyssa contacted some of her friends and said that she was running away,'' Judd said before she was found. ``When they asked, 'Well, why are you running away?' She told them 'for love.'''

Judd said Mitchell had 14 prior arrests on charges including burglary, aggravated assault with a weapon, grand larceny, bomb threats, extortion and offense or offer of lewdness and lewd and lascivious behavior.

Mitchell has several tattoos on his arms and fingers.

Alyssa ran away just a day after a new Florida law took effect, making the state's sex predator penalties some of the toughest in the nation.

The law requires offenders to register e-mail and instant message handles with authorities, information that will be shared with social networking sites like Myspace.com. The state also tripled the maximum sentences to 15 years for soliciting minors for sex and possessing child pornography.