SACRAMENTO, CA - Parents and authorities acted quickly to intercede when a Merced man allegedly met up with a 14-year-old Connecticut girl and they flew to Sacramento Monday night without her parents' knowledge.
The girl, who was reported as a runaway by her parents to Hamden, Conn. police on Monday and Nathan Salas, 27, of Merced, are believed to have started an online relationship on a Wicca social media website several months ago, said Sgt. Jason Ramos with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
Salas said during a jailhouse interview that he intended to help the 14-year-old girl when he went to Hamden to pick her up and fly back to Sacramento with her.
"It was to get her away from an abusive house," Salas said. "It wasn't physical, but it was verbal and mental and medically; not really abused with medicine, but denied medical assistance everything from dental to vision to health."
Salas flew to Hamden on Sunday night and told the girl to write her parents a note.
The girl left a suicide note. However, Salas said he did not know she left a suicide note.
Ramos said Hamden police searched for her and entered her into a national database for missing children. They also checked her online messages and text messages from phone records and found conversations between the teen and Salas; officers also got his phone number.
"We went from messaging on the website, which was really slow, to Facebook, to texting," Salas said. "Then it pushed over to Facebook because the messaging system on the website was too slow; then it switched over from Facebook to texting; then to the PlayStation 3 with the eye, which is a webcam with a microphone on it."
When asked if the communication was sexual, Salas said the girl developed feelings for him, but he felt sisterly toward her.
"I told her it was strictly friends and nothing else," Salas said. "I told her, 'don't think I'm playing hard to get, because I'm not.'"
After Hamden police found Salas' information, they contacted the Merced County Sheriff's Department. Deputies received information about the flight Salas and the girl were taking from Connecticut to Sacramento, Ramos said.
Salas said he had second thoughts on the flight back to Sacramento. He knew his parents were waiting to pick them up at the airport. He knew he had told them she was 21, and he knew he had no business being on a flight with the girl.
On Monday night, sheriff's deputies were in place to detain Salas and the girl as they got off an arriving flight at Sacramento International Airport. Ramos said deputies contacted the girl's parents, who confirmed they did not know Salas and had not given permission to their daughter to accompany him.
"The moment the officer put the handcuffs on my hands and told me it was a felony, the moment I looked at my total bail, which is $100,000, at that exact moment, it hit home that no matter how good of intentions I had, this was the biggest mistake that I had ever made in my entire life," Salas said
The girl was taken into protective custody. Ramos said Salas was arrested for intentionally concealing a child and booked into jail.