Two Illinois men have been charged with conspiracy and kidnapping charges in Mississippi after police say they used a messaging app popular with the gaming community to cajole an Olive Branch, Mississippi, teenager from his home after convincing him he was saving them from suicide.
According to the Associated Press, police in Olive Branch have charged Juan E. Andrade, 30, and Jason St. Aubin, 29. Both men are from Creal Springs, Illinois, and are being held on more than $600,000 bail. They are set to be extradited to Mississippi within days.
St. Aubin and Andrade are alleged to have picked up John Aubrey Peal III, 14, on the night of August 1 around the corner from his home in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee. The teen’s father, John Peal, said the two men spent months talking to him over the app Discord and giving him the impression that he was helping to save them from themselves.
“I saw these two men’s mugshots, and I’ve seen the devil,” Peal said, as quoted by local Memphis NBC affiliate WMC Action News 5. “These people are predators. They lured my son out with the false belief that he was saving their life from suicide.”
He added, “These two men used technology that was beyond what I even knew was out there to convince my son to leave.”
After four days, during which the teen reportedly subsisted on hot dogs and frozen pizza, his disappearance was posted over social media. Sheriff Bennie Vick, of Williamson County, Illinois, said the younger Peal on Sunday arrived at the Lake of Egypt Fire Department, with St. Aubin, and asked firefighters to call “proper authorities.” The teen eventually rejoined his family, and his dad believes the publicity wrought by the social media activity convinced the men to bail on whatever they were planning.
“The captors decided they needed to get rid of him,” Peal’s father said, according to AP.
Williamson County police nabbed Andrade and St. Aubin on Monday, AP reports, after conducting a stakeout. Authorities in Illinois said they’re also considering charging the men with more crimes.
[Credit: Olive Branch Police Department; Facebook]