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A missing Grand Island girl has been found and reunited with her family, after allegedly being lured away from her Bedell Road home overnight Thursday by a man she met online.
Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia announced 13-year-old Hailey Williams was located safe by authorities in York County, Pennsylvania, around 4:30 a.m. Friday.
Garcia also reports that an individual is in custody. The sheriff’s office had said the girl had online conversations with an individual who identified himself as “Dale” from Pennsylvania.
Hailey, a student at Veronica Connor Middle School, was the subject of an intense search after her family reported her missing Thursday morning. The Grand Island School District had also issued an alert to families in the district, with a plea for anyone with information on her whereabouts to contact the sheriff’s office, which had set up a tip line for the public.
Garcia said the investigation continues, with much work ahead.
Schools Superintendent Brian Graham said, “Hailey's family, along with the Grand Island Central School District, would like to thank everyone who contributed information during the investigation that led to the safe recovery of Hailey.”
He said the district is very proud of the multiple law enforcement agencies “who shared resources, expertise and experience in the incredible effort to locate her.”
“As we reflect on the unique experiences related to this situation, we would ask all parents to contemplate how much access should be given to young children, as it relates to social media and internet chat forums,” Graham said. “Additionally, we should all be aware that meeting strangers online or while playing on Xbox and PlayStation should be considered just as dangerous as meeting and conversing with strangers in person.”
Graham thanked all the middle school students who shared relevant information with school personnel. He also commended School Resource Officer Michael Paternostro, Grand Island Chief of Police Thomas Franz, sheriff’s deputies and others who worked together to locate Hailey.
“It certainly was a collaborative and focused effort,” Graham said.
The sheriff’s office also acknowledged “the tremendous support it received from our law enforcement partners: the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the New York State Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Grand Island Police Department, the Cranberry Township (Pennsylvania) Police, the Greece (New York) Police, the U.S. Border Patrol, Erie County Central Police Services, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, the state Thruway Authority, and multiple intelligence centers.”