BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - The parents of a 12-year-old girl knew there were problems, but it wasn’t until after she allegedly left in a car with a 22-year-old Maryland man that they discovered just how deep the problem was.
Ashley and Chase of Blue Springs said the first indications of an issue were their daughter’s grades slipping and her mood changing.
“She was supposed to be doing homework, but I knew she wasn’t,” said Ashley, whose last name is being withheld due to the nature of the alleged crime.
Ashley said her daughter would click out of screens on the computer whenever she would come up to check on her, but noticed the sixthgrader was playing a role playing game called Onigiri.
“I heard her typing a lot, and that’s what really kind of set me to put limits on it,” said Ashley.
Ashley’s husband Chase said they placed strong restrictions on their daughter: no phones, no tablets and when they saw suspicious messaging on Onigiri, that was gone too.
“It seemed like whatever boundary we put, she found a way to go outside those boundaries,” said Chase.
The conversations between their daughter and 22-year-old William Dela-Cruz allegedly began on Onigiri.
Neither Chase nor Ashley knew about the other ways their daughter was messaging with the man until after, according to police, she was in his car on the way to Maryland.
“After it was too late,” said Chase.
The conversations moved to the messaging app “Discord,” according to Ashley.
“That’s what was scary about it is our XBOX. She was using the XBOX to get on Discord that night and we have a password on every account, and I guess you don’t need it to use the browser, which was news to us,” said Ashley.
“We didn’t know about Discord. We didn’t know she had a Facebook. We didn’t know she had all those things,” said Chase.
After they returned home to find their daughter gone, Ashley and Chase discovered a clue as to who may have taken her.
“The only reason I found out she had a Facebook or that she was using Discord is that she took a tablet from my sister and we charged it enough after she was already gone just to find in the notifications that she had been talking to [a man],” said Ashley.
What lessons they wish they knew before
Chase warns parents to be vigilant with monitoring their children’s online presence.
“We thought we had put so many locks on her life. They find a way out. We should’ve asked. We should’ve talked. We should’ve listened. We should’ve done more to prevent her from going down that path,” said Chase.
“Monitoring is not enough,” said Ashley. “You cannot beat them. They are just like us. When you were a kid, when you were a teenager you found ways around your mom. Things they never knew you did. For kids now unfortunately it’s twice as dangerous and easier to hide it, way easier.”