The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 22, 2013

Joplin man pleads guilty to helping girl run away

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin man pleaded guilty Monday to kidnapping a 13-year-old girl from Arkansas after meeting her on Twitter.

James A. Morey, 34, changed his plea to guilty on the charge in Jasper County Circuit Court as part of an agreement that would limit the prison time that he might be assessed to no more than 10 years. Circuit Judge David Dally set Morey’s sentencing hearing for Sept. 23.

Morey was arrested Nov. 2 after Joplin police located a 13-year-old runaway from Pea Ridge, Ark., in his apartment at 926 N. Goetz Blvd. He had picked her up at her school in Arkansas earlier in the day and brought her back to Joplin.

When her mother reported that the girl did not come home from school, Pea Ridge police learned that she had been text-messaging a number in Joplin that belonged to Morey. Joplin police were contacted and went to Morey’s apartment looking for her.

The defendant was arrested once officers established that he was no relation to the girl and did not have her parents’ permission to bring her to Joplin.

Morey told police that he had met the girl through Twitter, a social networking site on the Internet. He had been having phone conversations with her for about three months before deciding to drive to Arkansas and assist her in running away, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

The girl told officers that she had identified herself to Morey as a 13-year-old girl and that she had arranged for him to pick her up. Missouri law holds that anyone under 14 is incapable of consenting to confinement by someone other than a parent or legal guardian. Morey reportedly told police that the girl appeared to him to be 13 to 15 years of age.

A Class A felony charge of kidnapping carries from 10 to 30 years, or up to life, in prison. The judge deferred action on the plea agreement and ordered the completion of a sentencing-assessment report on the defendant.

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