Missing Walnut Cove girl is home at last--Faith Manuel vanished over 7 months ago
Manuel had been missing since June 28 when she suddenly left her home at 1095 Hugo Lane in Walnut Cove in the middle of the night. She was located on Tuesday, Feb. 1, in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Her mother, Linda Cayton, and two officers from the Stokes County Sheriff’s Department made the 13-hour drive south to pick up Manuel. They arrived safely back in Walnut Cove at about 1 a.m. Thursday morning.
“The mom was excited,” said Stokes County Sheriff Mike Marshall. “She cried for like an hour. She had had a lot of concerns.”
These concerns centered around the fact that Manuel was thought to have left town with William David Jones, a 34-year-old man she had met on the Internet. Jones already had a police record, having been arrested for using a fake social security number and driving without a license. He and Manuel were suspected to be heading to Texas.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing for some family members was that Manuel had not contacted them a single time in those seven months, not even at holiday times.
Any fears Cayton may have had intensified just a couple of hours before Manuel was located. That morning, a former roommate of Jones from his Texas days reported to investigators in Texas that he had spoken to Jones and had asked him about Manuel. Jones denied any knowledge of the young girl.
But the break in this case came when Jones was arrested at his job in Denham Springs, LA, on charges of non-support. He had outstanding warrants in three states. According to Captain Jeff Lemons of the Stokes County Sheriff’s office, who has been on this case since its inception, Jones informed the police where Manuel was--living in a mobile home in Denham Springs. Law enforcement officers went to the trailer and found Manuel there.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Marshall and his staff notified Cayton that her daughter had been located, safe and sound. The mother and daughter spoke by phone, then arrangements were made for Manuel to be picked up by her mom and Stokes County law officers.
Marshall says that although Manuel left of her own free will, she had no choice but to come home, because civilly, she is still considered a juvenile and her mother has custody papers. Criminally, Manuel is considered an adult, but she is guilty of no crime, Marshall says.
Jones, however, is a different story. He can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, although Marshall says a suspect cannot be extradited from LA to NC on a misdemeanor charge.
The sheriff adds that since Jones went into multiple states with Manuel, he might be in more trouble than he thinks. In some states, the girl is still considered a minor at 17 which would make Jones’ action a felony. This will be brought to the attention of the U.S. Attorney.
In North Carolina, a person is criminally considered an adult at the age of 16. Had Manuel been 15 and a minor in this state, Marshall points out, Jones would’ve been guilty of kidnapping.
Despite the fact that NC considers Manuel an adult in some circumstances, Marshall comments on Jones’ involvement with her, “He played on her youth.”
With that in mind, the sheriff continued: “As a parent, it makes you want to be more aware of what [the kids’] conversations are on the computer. It’s our responsibility as parents to monitor what our kids do.” He says there is even computer software to help parents monitor their children’s activity online.
There are many situations nationally each year in which missing youth are not heard from again or are found not alive. But the ending to Faith Manuel’s story is a very different one. She’s back in her hometown, living once again with her mother, and those who know and love her are thanking God for answered prayers.