Nintendo Switch Helped Authorities Locate An Abducted Teen 2,000 Miles Away

nintendo switch 3
If you read this site, there's a solid chance that you have children. Do you pay attention to who they're talking to on the internet? Probably not as well as you should—like most parents. A fifteen-year-old girl was abducted from her home in Virginia last August, and it was only thanks to the careful eye and decisive action of one of her friends—and her captor's bone-headed decision to allow her to bring along her Nintendo Switch—that she was rescued from her kidnapper in Arizona.

ABC15 reports that, while authorities and volunteers canvassed the neighborhood and sought the girl in vain for weeks, on the day she went missing she was already on a bus traveling over 2,000 miles away. The man that was transporting her was a 28-year-old that she met on the internet. They became online friends, and then he traveled from his native Arizona to steal her away from her family home in Virginia.

While the capture was indeed a kidnapping and not simply the girl running away, her captor allowed her to bring along her Nintendo Switch portable gaming system. The Nintendo Switch Online service, like most internet-connected gaming networks, allows your registered friends to see your online status. One of the girl's friends, who had been told that she was missing, noticed her come online on her Switch and told their parents.

nintendo switch friends interface
The Nintendo Switch's friends interface. Image: Nintendo

That's the act that ultimately led to her rescue and the capture of her kidnapper. The local police reported the news to the FBI, who were able to get the victim's IP address from Nintendo. That led them directly to the man's apartment complex, where they discovered that the girl had been forced into the production of child pornography. Just twelve days after she went missing, the girl was returned home to her family.

This story comes from court documents that were released after the conclusion of the matter. The girl's captor was charged in federal court for multiple crimes, including production of child pornography and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He made a plea deal, and was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

It's disgusting to think about child abduction—to think about a man (or woman) coming into your home to collect your child and put him or her through extremely abusive situations. These kinds of things really do happen, though, and not being vigilant about your child's safety can be exactly how yours might end up in a similar situation. Things worked out this time, but there are some 350,000 children that go missing every year, and they don't all end up with a rescue outcome like this. Make absolutely certain your kids and family members are aware of the risks, be vigilant of who your child is communicating with, and if you see something, say something – just like this child's friend that spotted the abducted child's online status.