Missing US teen found inside marine corps base, investigation underway

Two weeks after a 14-year-old US girl’s grandmother reported that she had run away in early June, the teenager was found in an unusual location: Inside the barracks at a California Marine Corps base north of San Diego.

Federal law enforcement officials said Monday that they are investigating and had taken a Marine with the Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group into custody briefly for questioning. He has since been released to his command while the investigation continues, said Marine Capt. Charles Palmer of the 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of San Diego.

“This command takes this matter and all allegations very seriously,” Palmer said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

It was unclear how long the teenager was at the barracks and whether she was spotted by other Marines who reported her presence. She was found by military police during the day on June 28 after her grandmother had reported her missing on June 13. Military and law enforcement officials declined to release other details.

All visitors are stopped at the entrance to the sprawling base by Marines and required to show authorization to enter the base. Marines are allowed to bring a visitor on base and into the barracks until a certain hour, which varies according to each building.

Single junior Marines are generally assigned to the barracks where most share a room with at least one other Marine. The rooms generally have two single beds, a small refrigerator, eating area, secretary desk, closet and wall lockers. The barracks also have common areas with pool tables and TVs.

It was also unclear how the girl and the Marine came into contact and whether they had met online or in person after the girl ran away from home. Military officials declined to release the Marine’s age or rank.

According to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, her grandmother reported her missing on June 13 and told authorities she had run away from home four days earlier. The grandmother told the deputy who interviewed her that the girl had run away before but only for brief periods.

The teen’s information was entered into multiple missing person databases, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the sheriff’s department said.

After she was found on base, authorities returned the girl to her grandmother, according to the sheriff’s department.

The case has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the federal agency in charge of investigating Navy and Marine Corps criminal cases.

NCIS spokesman Jeff Houston said no one has been arrested or charged in the case. He said the Marine was detained for questioning and released back to his command. The sheriff’s department and the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force are assisting the investigation.

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