Man charged in case of Mass. girl found in RI

A Missouri man was charged with child sex trafficking in the case of a Massachusetts girl who was reported missing by her parents and was later found apparently unharmed in Rhode Island.

Stephen Ardrey, 30, of Springfield, Mo., made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Providence on Friday. He was also charged with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal activity. He did not enter a plea.

Ardrey was handcuffed and said little during the hearing, other than to respond to Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan's questions about procedural matters.

Prosecutor Adi Goldstein told Sullivan that Ardrey had a criminal history of prior sex offenses, although she did not provide any details.

NBC 10 has learned that Ardrey was arrested in Georgia in May 2007 and charged with pimping. He was sentenced to 28 days in jail and 11 months of probation.

Goldstein cited that, along with the seriousness of the offense and the fact that Ardrey has no known ties to Rhode Island, as reason to hold him without bail. Ardrey's lawyer, Kevin Fitzgerald, did not ask for bail, and Sullivan ordered him held.

The charges carry a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in prison.

Fitzgerald did not comment outside court.

Medfield, Mass., police have said the 17-year-old girl was found walking down a Coventry street "safe and unharmed" on Thursday. Authorities said she was seen leaving the Medfield library with Ardrey on Monday.

Homeland Security is involved in the investigation, and police have been searching a Super 8 motel in West Greenwich where Ardrey and the girl were staying.

A Coventry man spotted the two walking along the side of Route 3 on Thursday morning and called police.

"She looked like his daughter almost, there was such an age difference. And I knew there were no bus stops. I've never seen any kids waiting. So, where are they walking to?" Jim Pugliese told NBC 10 News.

The girl's parents publicly appealed for the return of their daughter, who has a developmental disability.

Medfield is in Norfolk County, Mass., about 50 miles north of Coventry.