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Authorities in Tennessee believe a kidnapped teen may be in “serious risk of physical and emotional danger” and are pleading with the public for help in finding her.
Prosecutors believe 17-year-old Daphne Westbrook was kidnapped by her father, John Oliver Westbrook, around 18 months ago and is being held “against her will” and is “unable to communicate with the outside world,” according to a statement from the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office.
“She is prevented from leaving,” Melydia Clewell, chief of staff for the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office, told Oxygen.com.
Clewell believes the teen is being “isolated” and is “not allowed to see anyone from the outside world.”
Daphne disappeared along with her dogs, Fern and Strawberry, from Chattanooga after a weekend visit with her dad in October 2019.
The search for the teen has been complicated by her father’s IT skills. Prosecutors said John is an expert in security, blockchain technology and bitcoin, making it easier for the pair to avoid detection.
“He is communicating in a way that’s almost impossible to trace, which makes it extremely difficult for investigators to generate significant leads in this case,” the district attorney’s office said.
Authorities say John believes himself to be somewhat of a real-life Jason Bourne, drawing from the fictional movie character’s ability to stay one step ahead of authorities. He’s even referred to himself as “Oscar Bourne,” according to Clewell.
“In some respects, it seems like it’s a game to him,” she said.
Authorities do know a few details about the father’s life on the run, including that he is likely making money as an independent contractor.
“We know he’s generating money through contract work with small businesses who would need computer security, any of those high-tech (services) like blockchain or Bitcoin technology. That’s what he’s doing, and so that’s a very narrow market,” Clewell said.
She described the Tennessee father as “odd” and “someone who would stick out because of his physical looks and his behavior.”
The father and daughter are also likely keeping a low profile.
“Everything he’s doing is off the grid, so he would be renting from someone who isn’t doing a background check,” she said.
Authorities also said that John does not have a driver’s license.
“We don’t know how he is getting from point A to point B,” Clewell said.
Last month, investigators discovered Daphne’s Bible in a trash can outside Trader Joe’s in New Mexico. They said John has also been seen frequently shopping in Santa Fe stores and believe he had lived in New Mexico for at least some period of time.
Daphne has also been seen in the Denver area and it’s believed that last month, John spent several weeks in Pueblo, Colorado.
“Daphne is increasingly at serious risk of physical and emotional danger and we need your help to find her,” authorities said.
Clewell said it’s possible John might also seek refuge with family members living in Auburn, Washington; Chico, California, or central Florida.
Prosecutors believe John, who has been indicted by a grand jury for aggravated kidnapping, may have made attempts to alter his appearance and that of his daughter, by using hair dye and false teeth, The Auburn Examiner reports.
Authorities believe Daphne “is being kept intoxicated” through either drugs or alcohol, Clewell told Oxygen.com.
Daphne’s mom, Rhona Curtsinger, told local station WDEF that she has been heartbroken by her daughter’s disappearance.
“She has been taken away from everyone she knew; her friends, everything. All just gone. Vanished and I don’t have words for that,” Curtsinger said. “The things that we have learned are very scary and very disturbing. We are just so eager to find her so that we can get her help.”
She told WRBC that she last saw her daughter on Oct. 4, 2019 as she going to her dad’s house for the weekend.
On the day her daughter was supposed to return home, Curtsinger said she got a text from Daphne asking if she could be a few hours late so she could go on a walk with a friend. Daphne never came home.
She described her daughter as “fun” and “inquisitive” with a passion for language and traveling.
Clewell said Curtsinger has not any contact with her daughter in more than a year and a half.
They believe the teen’s “mental state is deteriorating” and that she’s not getting the care she needs.
“She is not being given necessary medications,” Clewell said. “She has not been to school, she has not been to a doctor, not been to a dentist since October of 2019.”
Investigators have urged anyone with information about the case to contact the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office in Tennessee at 1-423-209-7415 or send tips to FindingDaphne@hcdatn.org.
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