Emily Nicole Lalinsky, photo courtesy Lisa Schwartz via Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. - They left Sunday morning under the guise of a hiking trip.
By evening, 15-year-old Emily Nicole Lalinsky and 37-year-old Robert Louis Messer had vanished, leaving behind cellphones and a note expressing their love for each other.
Now, Plymouth Township, Mich., police are looking for the teen, who has known Messer - a family friend - since she was a little girl.
"She's always looked up to him as a father figure," Lisa Schwartz said of her daughter. "He's always been like a brother to me."
Schwartz said the pair left a note at Messer's home saying they were running away.
"We are going today, she and I, because we have to - not because we want to leave you," Schwartz recited Monday from the letter Messer wrote. "We are in love and cannot be apart from each other. This is sad to us but our love, though we've had to keep it a secret, has been the best part of both our lives. Please be happy for us."
"As far as I'm concerned, this is kidnapping. He did not have my permission to take her."
- Lisa Schwartz, mother of Emily Nicole Lalinsky
Schwartz said Messer, who the family met through church, has been a friend for nearly a decade. She said her daughter and Messer saw each other about once a week, often going to Ann Arbor, Mich., for hiking trips or so the teen could take photographs.
Schwartz said Messer, who is divorced and has children of his own, picked her daughter up at 8 a.m. Sunday to go hiking in Ann Arbor. According to police, the pair was last seen at Messer's home in Salem Township, Mich., about 7 miles away. By 5:30 p.m., Schwartz was notified.
"Mom, I love you so very, very much," Lalinsky wrote in the note, her mother said. "Please don't ever doubt or forget that you are an amazing and wonderful mother and person. I am so sorry I hurt you and if there was any other way, we would have done it."
Schwartz said both her daughter and Messer are shy. Lalinsky, one of six children, loves photography and wants to become a teacher, her mother said. Messer has little money, she said.
Schwartz said Messer enjoys national parks and said he apparently talked to someone recently about going to Oregon.
According to police, Messer is driving a 1991 two-tone brown Ford truck with a Michigan license plate of CNS 2754.
In the note, Lalinsky writes the couple wished they didn't have to leave.
"Thank you so much for everything you do and have done," Schwartz said her daughter wrote in the letter. "Try not to be sad and don't blame yourself. Nothing could have been done. I love you."
Schwartz said she feels betrayed.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is kidnapping," she said. "He did not have my permission to take her."
Asked what she would say to her daughter, Schwartz said: "Come home."
Plymouth Township police ask anyone who has seen Emily or Messer, or has information on their disappearance, to call 734-354-3250.
Detroit Free Press/USA Today