SURGOINSVILLE, TN- – A Hawkins County dad is heartbroken today as the search continues for his missing 14-year-old daughter.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an amber alert for Hayleigh Wilson Wednesday morning.
“If she sees this I want her to know her daddy loves her and he wants her to come home,” Eddie Wilson, Haylegh’s dad said.
She was last seen with 41-year-old Benjamin Shook at 4 a.m. Tuesday at a Walmart in Marion, North Carolina.
He has an active warrant out of Georgia for failing to register as a sex offender.
Police said they may be traveling in a maroon 2004 Ford Explorer Sport Trac with Tennessee plate D6020D.
“I first couldn’t believe it because Hayleigh is just this sweet 14-year-old girl who wore baggy pant or basketball shorts, baggy shirt. Just a sweet little kid,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Hayleigh is about to be a freshman in high school.
“She has already been talking about college, preparing herself for college to be a chemist,” Wilson said.
But he said lately something has been off.
“Just a couple of weeks before she left we started seeing a few things, that she started dressing different and her language was different,” Wilson said.
Her dad said he thinks she ran away with Shook, a man police believe she met online.
Police identified him after a tip came in from someone who lived near him in Morristown.
“When I ran a criminal history on Shook, turned out to be wanted out of Georgia for failure to register as a sex offender,” Surgoinsville Police Chief James Hammonds said.
And his rap sheet doesn’t end there.
“He’s got an extensive criminal history,” Hammonds said. “He’s got nine sexual exploitations of a minor, got some sexual batteries, burglaries, thefts.”
“It’s just terrifying to know that you’ve got a 14-year-old child in the hands of somebody like that,” Wilson said. “Everything goes through your mind as a dad, you always think the worst.”
Police say Tuesday morning Hayleigh’s step-dad’s truck was missing.
At 4 that morning his credit card had been used at a Marion, North Carolina Walmart.
“Right now TBI, FBI, and U.S. Marshalls are helping us try to track down leads and follow tips,” Hammonds said.
“You just feel helpless, there’s nothing you can do to save your little girl,” Wilson said.
He said he wants Hayleigh to know he loves her, and as for the man she was last seen with; “If I could say anything to that guy and if he would reason, just bring our girl home safe. Just do the right thing,” Wilson said.
Wilson said right now all he can do is wait and hope.
“I’m trusting that God will bring her home safe, that’s all I got is that hope,” Wilson said.
Police say the U.S. Marshalls are in the process of opening a federal case on Shook.
If you have any information call police at 1-800 -TBI – FIND.
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