NJ man charged in Portsmouth girl's disappearance
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. —
Investigators said Thursday that a New Jersey man faces a sex charge in connection with the disappearance of a 13-year-old girl from Portsmouth, R.I., who was found alive in the man's apartment about 16 hours after she was reported missing.
Portsmouth police said Daniel Berger, 27, was charged with one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Berger appeared in federal court in Newark and agreed to be held pending his return to Rhode Island.
Conviction on the felony charge is punishable by 10 years to life in prison. An FBI agent said Berger could face additional charges.
Police said Berger and the teenager were found in Berger's apartment in Haskell, N.J, at about 1 a.m. According to an affidavit filed in federal court in Providence, an FBI agent wrote, "After several loud knocks, the victim opened the door. She appeared disheveled and yelled, 'Please help me.'"
According to the affidavit, "She told agents that she had ... sex with Berger in his apartment."
A second man in the apartment was not charged.
NBC 10 News does not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults.
The girl was reunited with her family, but police would not characterize her condition.
"I can't speak to any medical issues with the victim," interim Portsmouth Police Chief Jeffrey Furtado told reporters at a news conference. "I can't say that she's not well."
Furtado said the girl's disappearance was not a random act or a child snatching. He said Berger and the girl apparently knew each other and had prior communication before she left her home with him Wednesday morning. The affidavit said they communicated by text message and in online chats.
"We see it time and time again. I think that parents have to be aware of their children's online activity. Know what they're doing and who they're communicating with," Furtado said. "Probably easier said than done, but certainly, I think this case demonstrates how dangerous those communications can be."
Authorities issued an Amber Alert for the girl after she was reported missing by her mother at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Police said a witness saw someone matching the girl's description leave home with a man in a red car with New Jersey license plates.
The Amber Alert was canceled at 1 a.m. Thursday.