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Man arrested after World of Warcraft game helps police find missing 16-year-old girl

Generic: Day Police Lights
Posted at 7:42 PM, Jan 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-07 19:42:55-05

Authorities say they were able to locate a missing 16-year-old girl from Ohio at a residence in Florida with the help of the popular online video game World of Warcraft.

The FBI contacted the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday seeking help finding the teenager, according to a Facebook postby the sheriff’s office in north-central Florida.

Investigators learned the teen’s account for World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, was active at a residence in Dunnellon, Florida, authorities said in the post. A MMORPG is a video game that takes place in a virtual environment called a persistent-state world, according to Techopedia, where potentially millions of players can develop their role-playing characters and interact together.

Dunnellon is located about 25 miles southwest of Ocala.

According to authorities, the residence was the home address of Thomas Ebersole, 31, whose World of Warcraft account was also pinged at the location.

Ebersole initially denied knowing the 16-year-old, but later allegedly admitted he had driven to Ohio to meet up with her and bring her back to Dunnellon, according to the post from the sheriff’s office.

Ebersole was arrested later Wednesday for allegedly traveling to meet a minor to engage in sexual activity, interfering with child custody and sheltering an unmarried minor.

He also told authorities he was in a “romantic relationship” with the teen and planned to hide her in his Dunnellon home and make her his wife, the sheriff’s office said.

“Ebersole provided Detective (Henrik) Osthed with Discord messages that further outlined his plans to meet the victim in Ohio and engage in sexual activity despite knowing that he was committing a crime,” authorities said in the Facebook post.

Ebersole was transported to the Marion County Jail and is being held without bond.

His next court date is February 6. CNN has been unable to determine if he has been appointed or retained legal representation at this time.