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A Tennessee teenager, who authorities say has been kidnapped and kept intoxicated by her father, may have been spotted in Florida, in what officials are calling a “very credible sighting.”
Melydia Clewell, chief of staff for the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office, told Oxygen.com that a person in Fort Walton Beach, Florida reported seeing a man and his teenage daughter—who seemed to match the description of John Westbrook and his 17-year-old daughter Daphne Westbrook—on March 6 in an old, rusty orange VW Beetle.
Clewell said authorities know that Westbrook owns a vehicle matching that description and has family in the Florida area.
“That to us is a very credible sighting,” she said.
The car has no windshield or license plate, according to a statement from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Over the weekend, investigators also raided the Sebring, Florida home of John’s sister and confiscated her electronic devices after authorities alleged she had been communicating with her brother.
“We know that he has been in contact with his family and continues to stay in contact with his family, and none of them are helping us,” Clewell said.
John, an information technology professional, has relied on those skills, including an in-depth understanding of Bitcoin and blockchain technology, to evade authorities since he disappeared from his Tennessee home with his daughter in October 2019, officials said.
“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 Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office said in an earlier statement about the case.
Clewell said John, who has been indicted for aggravated kidnapping, believes himself to be somewhat of a real-life "Jason Bourne," referencing the fictional movie character’s ability to stay one step ahead of authorities.
Authorities believe that Daphne is “being kept intoxicated” through either drugs or alcohol and is in “serious risk” of danger.
“She is absolutely in danger emotionally and physically,” Clewell told Oxygen.com Friday. “It’s important that she return to a normal, happy life.”
Clewell said authorities believe the 17-year-old’s mental state is deteriorating and that she’s not taking the medication she needs for a mental health issue.
Daphne’s mother Rhona Curtsinger, who has not communicated with her daughter in more than a year and a half, told local station WTVT that she will do anything she can to make sure her daughter is safe.
“Please know that nobody is angry. You are so loved,” she said in a message to the teen. “It’s not your fault you are in that situation.”
Curtsinger last saw her daughter in October 2019 as she was heading to her father's house for a weekend visitation, according to local station WRCB. She texted her mom later that weekend to ask if she could come home a few hours late so that she could go on a walk with a friend, but never returned.
John Westbrook is described as 6’4” tall, weighing 200 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes, WVLT reports. Daphne has been described as 5’3”, weighing 110 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Clewell cautioned, however, that authorities know John has purchased hair dye and false teeth and said it’s possible they have changed their appearance.
Anyone with information about the case, is urged to call 1-800-TBI-FIND or to reach out to the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office at FindingDaphne@hcdatn.org.
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