Police have arrested the mother of a 14-year-old New Jersey girl who had been missing for a month on charges relating to allegations of physical abuse and neglect.
Authorities say Jamie Moore, 39, has been arrested on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, as prosecutors cited allegations of abuse and neglect. Her two children, the 14-year-old and her 3-year-old brother, have been placed into the custody of child protectives services.
The 14-year-old East Orange girl vanished Oct. 14 after heading out to pick up some groceries from a local deli. She was located safely Thursday, exactly four weeks later, by police in New York City.
Investigators revealed at a press conference Friday morning that the teen chose to run away from her home. Many questions remain about the circumstances of her disappearance, including how she made it on her own for almost a month and what triggered charges against her mother.
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It wasn't immediately clear Friday afternoon if Jamie Moore had an attorney.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens III and other top law enforcement officials began to fill in some of the blanks surrounding the teen's case. Notably, their investigation points to the teen spending a significant portion of the past month in New Jersey before traveling into New York City. How she got around and who, if anyone, may have supported her efforts is something investigators are still trying to piece together.
According to Stephens, the 14-year-old had last stayed at a shelter in Brooklyn before she was ultimately located by New York City police in Harlem. The investigators are also looking at the efforts made by the girl to conceal her identity, possibly by cutting her hair, as well as initially denying who she was to officers.
"The young lady appears to have run away and didn't want to make herself known to anyone where she was. She seemed to be more so at-ease where she was," Stephens said.
At the time of her disappearance, the girl was not enrolled in any school, the prosecutor revealed. Authorities said that the girl spent much of the month she was missing in New Jersey, before later ending up at the Brooklyn shelter. A tipster led NYPD officers to find her.
Salon owner Grace Olyfveldt said she used to see the girl daily, and could tell something wasn't right at home.
"She had on the same clothes every day...she was always by herself, never saw her with any friends...never accompanied by an adult," said Olyfveldt.
The first sign of possible criminal charges also came during the press conference, when Stephens said leads under investigation "may yield some charges." He said he and other officials had planned to meet with the mother later in the day.
"The family and our community is grateful she is safe and alive. We are thankful to everybody who put in the work to help find her," a spokesperson for the Moore family said in a statement.
Her family had said she didn't run away, even though that's what the mother initially reported that first night, insisting she must have been held against her will.
Many of the the activists and volunteers who drove efforts to find the teen were happy and relieved that she was safe, but some said they felt deceived after leading searches alongside the now-charged mother.
"We feel like we was shafted, bamboozled, misled," said Tony Olajuwon.
Some who joined in the recent search efforts said they were upset by what they perceived to be a double standard in the exposure given to the New Jersey teen's disappearance compared with that given to Long Island's Gabby Petito.
"We want the same exposure for our babies," a volunteer recently said.
Officials had said they were looking at all angles as they investigated the girl's disappearance. The FBI was also said to have been involved -- and a $20,000 reward had been offered for information that could help bring the girl home.