ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (WTRF) — A missing girl from Toledo, Ohio was found in the strangest of ways in St. Clairsville. Police say she most likely never would have been found and freed from a pedophile if it was not for a car accident.
Rebekah Mitchell’s car was struck on Newell Avenue in St. Clairsville Tuesday while she was at a stop sign. The driver kept driving. Rebekah decided at that moment to follow the driver.
“I was at the stop sign back here. And the lady to the left of me was making a right turn. She ended up driving and continuing to hit my car. And then she stopped and then she drove through it the rest of the way,” said Mitchell. “I started following her. I was honking my horn trying to get her to quit. Once I realized she was not going to pull over, I called 911. All of the sudden she started braking super hard. So, I thought she was trying to get me to rear-end her. Not knowing that she just couldn’t drive.”
It turns out the driver Mitchell was chasing was only 15 years old. Police discovered this information after she was eventually pulled over and arrested by Lt. TJ Stewart of the St. Clairsville Police Department and taken to the Belmont County Jail. She was placed in a private holding cell.
But, what was realized next will sound unbelievable.
“She was reported missing on August 16 of this year. And turned up here with a person that is a convicted pedophile,” said Lt. TJ Stewart, St. Clairsville Police.
The convicted pedophile Lt. Stewart spoke of is Toledo resident, Phillip Thompson, 57, who was arrested in April for driving to St. Clairsville with intent to meet and have sex with a 14-year-old girl. Instead, Thompson met undercover St. Clairsville police officers who posed as the 14-year-old girl on Facebook and lured him to the area.
Thompson’s sentencing for that crime was Tuesday, September 6, in the Belmont County Courthouse, where he had, what looked like, a “romantic partner” with him. Eyebrows were not raised at the time of the sentencing because police say she looked older than her age. We now know her as the 15-year-old who, after Thompson’s sentencing, left the courthouse driving a rental car under the name of another woman.
Other information on the girl is not being released since she is a minor. Police say it took hours after her arrest to figure out her name and age.
“Sitting at jail and deputies had recognized her at the courthouse that day,” said Lt. Stewart. “It’s insane because he brought her into the courthouse with him, for his sentencing. I’ve never heard of anything like this. I would imagine the courts are going to be upset with him. I mean that’s pretty bold.”
While not encouraged to tail the person who just hit your car, Lt. Stewart said if it weren’t for Mitchell chasing the culprit in the hit-and-run, they would have never found this missing girl.
Rebekah tells 7NEWS that before she even knew all of this, she had resolved within herself to not press charges.
“And then I received that call. It honestly broke my heart. I wanted to cry. I didn’t know it was that impactful. Because to me it was just getting revenge, trying to get that insurance,” said Mitchell.
Lt. Stewart said this rare incident has opened a new investigation.
The 15-year-old was taken from the jail to the Sargus Juvenile Detention Center and slapped with traffic charges of no license, hit-and-run and failure to control. She also faces obstruction for not being upfront with her name and age when she was pulled over.
The lieutenant hopes the charges break the cycle of grooming she’s been under.
“I’m glad it was me and where it was at,” said Mitchell. “Because if she would have continued and not hit me there, she could have ended up on the interstate.”