Parents used to only worry about stranger danger while their kids were unsupervised, but thanks to computers and smartphones, kids are at risk of being targeted while safely under the roof of their own home.
In February 2018, a Florida couple experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when they woke up to find their 11-year-old had vanished without a trace. They couldn’t understand how she could just disappear, but it all made sense when police searched her computer…
A Typical Saturday Night
On February 17, 2018, a couple from Orlando, Florida said goodnight to their 11-year-old daughter, Alice Amelia Johnson, as she went to her room like they did every other night. Even though it was the weekend, they told her not to stay up too late on the computer since she had to be up early the next morning.
Sunday Morning Mass
The next morning, Alice’s father, Steve Johnson, knocked on Alice’s bedroom door to wake her up like he did every other Sunday morning so that she could start getting ready to go to church. However, that Sunday morning something was different…
When Steve knocked on Alice’s door, there was no answer, which was unusual for the girl since she would normally answer back to confirm that she was awake. Steve assumed his daughter may have stayed up late on the computer the night before and was still sleeping.
A Parent’s Worst Nightmare
Steve knocked again, and this time when there was no answer, he opened the door and peaked in his daughter’s room. Instead of finding his 11-year-old fast asleep in bed, it was completely empty. Alice was nowhere in the room or anywhere in the house…
Steve tried calling Alice’s cell phone and sent her text messages asking where she was. When she didn’t answer, he frantically called her friends to see if she had possibly snuck out the night before and slept over, or if they had any idea where she might have gone.
The Police Report
No one had any idea where Alice was or where she might have gone, so at around 9 a.m., Steve called the police to report his 11-year-old daughter was missing. Since the girl was so young and had no history of running away, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office immediately sent out a missing child alert…
The Search Begins
In the alert, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office explained that they were looking for an 11-year-old white female with blue eyes, who had a mix of brown and dyed blue hair, and had last been seen at her home in the 9000 block of Eastport Terrace, Orlando.
Interviewing The Parents
The police interviewed the parents to try and figure out if Alice may have willingly gone somewhere, or if she had somehow been kidnapped. The worried couple explained that she was a normal 11-year-old and liked to play games on the computer…
Retracing Alice’s Last Steps
Investigators had to get a better idea of what Alice was thinking about before she suddenly vanished in the hopes that it would lead to a clue about what might have happened to her. So with her parents’ permission, the police started looking into her phone and computer records.
A Red Flag
Like her parents explained, police found records of Alice’s gaming history. Using electronic investigative techniques, the detectives searched through Alice’s gaming accounts and finally found a lead in her Minecraft account…
An Online Friend
By that Sunday afternoon, the detectives found records of conversations Alice had with another Minecraft player. In the conversations, the player claimed to be a young girl like Alice, but when police looked into the Minecraft account, they discovered it belonged to a 24-year-old man.
The Prime Suspect
“She was chatting with the individual through a game,” a Bibb County Sheriff’s spokesman said. “Within the game, you can use a headset to chat with the people you’re actually playing with. So that’s how the first initial contact we believe was made…”
According to the police, the Minecraft account belonged to 24-year-old John Peter Byrns who was from Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Detectives believe he pretended to be a girl in the game to gain Alice’s trust. They also found records that proved he made contact with Alice in other ways.
Records Of Their Interactions
Byrns first made contact with Alice through Minecraft, but later started communicating to Alice through other computer and video games that she played. At some point, they exchanged phone numbers and they started speaking over the phone…
Pulled Into A Trap
“This is someone that she’s been communicating with online under the guise of being a female and basically has just pulled her into a trap, so to speak,” said Alice’s father, who was terrified that the 24-year-old man had done something to her.
From Catfishing To Kidnapping
Once investigators determined Byrns had driven all the way from Illinois to Florida, they knew he must have kidnapped Alice and they knew they had to get to her before he could harm her. Thankfully, Alice had brought her cell phone with her and police were able to track their location…
The Manhunt Moves To Georgia
“Johnson’s phone was being tracked by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as she was traveling north with 24-year-old John Peter Byrns,” police said in a statement. According to Alice’s phone, they made it to Macon, Georgia so they sent local officers from Bibb Sheriff’s Office to look for them.
The Hotel Room
“Byrns vehicle was found at the Holiday Inn Express hotel, located at 4970 Harrison Road, at around 5:00 p.m.,” the police reported. F.B.I agents and local deputies located their hotel room and found Byrns and Alice inside. Thankfully, Alice was unharmed…
‘Lucky To Be Alive’
“I would say she’s lucky to be alive,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said. “She’s lucky that the circumstances aren’t any worse than what they are.” After taking Byrns into custody, the police had Alice examined. Once it was determined she was ok, they reunited her with her worried parents.
Alice’s family were grateful to the police for rescuing their daughter before anything happened to her, but know that many other missing children cases don’t end so happily. Alice’s father warned other parents to keep a closer eye on their kids since this can happen to anyone. “We felt like we were having oversight into her personal world..but there’s always just that danger that you’re not possibly, ya’ know keeping a close enough eye,” Steve said.