A multi-agency investigation led to a hotel in Pennsylvania on Wednesday night where police arrested a 38-year-old man and charged him with kidnapping a 13-year-old girl from her Jackson County, Indiana, home, after pursuing her online.
Andrew E. Howland of Lancaster allegedly drove through several states to pick up the girl early Tuesday morning, and then drove back to Lancaster County, taking the girl to two area hotels, according to a news release from the Lancaster County Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Office.
West Hempfield Township police went to the Comfort Inn on Abel Drive on Wednesday night and discovered Howland and the girl, who had been reported as a runaway to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, in a room.
West Hempfield Township Detective Sgt. George Brace and Lancaster County Detective Brent Shultz arrested Howland (on two dockets) with felony counts of kidnapping, unlawful contact with a minor, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, interference with custody of children and misdemeanor counts of indecent assault and corruption of minors.
Bail is set at a combined $575,000 and has not been posted.
A collaboration between West Hempfield Township police, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, Lancaster County detectives and Indiana law enforcement resulted in Howland’s arrest.
“The collaborative investigation revealed Mr. Howland’s illicit plan to remove this child from her home state,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said. “The diligence of law-enforcement agencies here and across the country led to a safe recovery of the girl.”
The investigation is ongoing.
“The law-enforcement agencies involved recognized the seriousness of this situation and acted accordingly to track Mr. Howland to a hotel room in our jurisdiction with a 13-year-old girl,” West Hempfield Township Police Chief Lisa Layden said. “Without such seamless collaboration, this resolution might not have been achieved.”
The investigation uncovered online communication between Howland and the girl, which revealed Howland’s plan to bring the girl to Lancaster County and sexually assault her.
After kidnapping the girl Tuesday about 1 a.m., Howland took the girl to two separate Comfort Inns, on Champ Boulevard Tuesday and Abel Drive Wednesday in Lancaster County.
Assistant District Attorneys Amy Muller and Karen Mansfield consulted with local police and approved filing of charges. The Lancaster County Children’s Alliance and Lancaster County Children and Youth Agency assisted the girl.
Due to the girl being a reported runaway, she is in the custody of social services.
“This case is a stark reminder of the dangers children can encounter online,” District Attorney Adams said. “Social networking platforms can be hunting grounds for predators hoping to contact and victimize children. Police will continue to be as proactive as possible to interrupt this deviant activity.”