Ohio teen found in Florida after logging on World of Warcraft | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

LIMA, Ohio — Life will take you on many journeys, some you never expect to travel.  

The journey life has taken Jennifer Johns on recently, is said no parent should ever have to endure.  

“You don’t take as something as precious as a child, and not expect us to go to hell and back to get you back,” said Johns. She’s the mother of the 16-year-old Lima teen who was found in Florida.  

According to the arrest affidavit from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, 31-year-old Thomas Ebersole was arrested on Jan. 3 at his Dunnellon home. The area is about 80 miles north of Tampa. 

Police in Lima, Ohio, about 80 miles northwest of Columbus, had reported the girl missing on Dec. 28. 

“You die 1,000 deaths every day you’re separated from the child that you brought into this world,” said Johns.  

She said on Dec. 28, everything was normal in her household. Her daughter, who played online video games, was home during the break. Johns said she went to work and then something unusual happened.  

“With my daughter’s extreme scoliosis, there was no way she was walking in the pouring-down rain without somebody picking her up. I knew that.”  

Investigators say the teen and Ebersole met while playing the online game World of Warcraft.

“He is a predator,” said Johns.  

Ebersole drove nearly 14 hours from Florida, picked the teen up and took her back with plans to marry her.  

After multiple searches around Lima and searching for numerous posts on social media, Johns called the FBI on New Year’s night. Thirty-six hours later, she got a call back from the FBI saying they found her daughter in Florida.  

Investigators determined that her World of Warcraft account had been used at a local address, which turned out to be Ebersole’s home, authorities said. His World of Warcraft account was also accessed at the location. 

“She was so brainwashed and so far gone, she does not realize the danger that she was in,” said Johns.  

Investigators made contact with Ebersole at his home. Officials said he initially denied knowing the girl but eventually admitted that he did. 

Ebersole also told investigators that he was in a romantic relationship with the girl and was going to hide her in his home until they could get married. He provided detectives with online messages that further outlined his plans to meet the girl in Ohio and have sex with her, despite knowing that he was committing a crime, officials said. 

“We educated her on predators. It hurts but when you’re conditioned and groomed by these predators, you’re not going to be your normal self,” the mother said. 

Johns wants other parents to ensure they have these conversations with their children, and not take this for granted.  

“We have a chance to help her and for these other parents that are out there that don’t have that, “said Johns. “I want other parents to step up, be the adult in your child’s life. These online predators don’t care how old you are.”  

Ebersole faces felony charges of traveling to meet a minor to engage in sexual activity and interfering with child custody, as well as a misdemeanor charge of sheltering an unmarried minor, according to jail records. He was being held on $6,000 bail. Jail records didn’t list an attorney for Ebersole. 

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