A 19-year-old man accused of abducting a Kennewick girl moved into a house on the same block as the teen just days before she left town with him, police said Friday.
Edwardo Fabien Flores Rosales started an online relationship with Elizabeth Romero while he was living in Hood River, Ore., said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin. After talking with the 14-year-old through Facebook, Rosales told his family he got a job and moved to Kennewick on Thanksgiving Day.
Rosales paid a full month’s rent for a room in a house on the same block as the girl, Lattin said.
Just days later, he had packed up his stuff, left his house key behind and took off with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was last seen Wednesday getting into a green Ford Escape in the parking lot of Phoenix High School in Kennewick, police said. The SUV belongs to Rosales’ brother, who lives in Hood River. An Amber Alert was issued Thursday for Elizabeth.
Her family had met Rosales before the abduction. They later told police they did not approve of the relationship, Lattin said.
Rosales used his Facebook conversations with Elizabeth to groom her for an abduction, Lattin said. Authorities believe though it appears the teen willingly got into the SUV, she could be in danger.
“We do not think his intentions are good,” Lattin told the Herald.
A warrant has been issued for Rosales’ arrest on suspicion of second-degree kidnapping. Rosales is 5-foot-9, 225 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
A local FBI agent — along with a task force of local law enforcement officials — is now heading up the investigation.
Multiple red flags have led police to believe Elizabeth did not just run off with her new boyfriend, Lattin said. Police say the pair have been together for a short period of time.
Rosales’ brother told authorities he recently put new license plates on the SUV, Lattin said. It appears Rosales has since removed the plates on the vehicle and put a temporary license tag in the window.
Elizabeth’s mother received texts from an unknown number on Thursday written by a person claiming to be Elizabeth, police said. The texts said they are headed for Mexico. When the mother asked for a picture to prove it was really her daughter, the conversation ended.
The phone used to send the messages has since been turned off and Elizabeth’s Facebook page appears to be deactivated, Lattin said.
Authorities are working to get access to Elizabeth’s social media accounts to get a better idea of what she and Rosales talked about, Lattin said.
Police saw no information that suggests Elizabeth planned to run off with Rosales.
Though police have seen cases where young victims are taken across the border to be trafficked for sexual purposes, authorities don’t believe that is a motive, Lattin said.
“We have definitely thought about that but it would be a pretty big stretch to say that at this point,” he said.
Police have been getting tips from throughout the country, though nothing has led them to the couple, police said. There is a chance that they are already in Mexico. Local police have notified the U.S. Border Patrol.
Anyone with information about Elizabeth’s or Rosales’ whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the Kennewick Police Department’s nonemergency line at 509-628-0333.
Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson