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FBI and police: Missing girl may be with AWOL airman at own choosing

December 28, 1996 GMT

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A 14-year-old girl who apparently ran away with an airman she met on the Internet did not appear to be with him against her will when the pair was spotted in Nebraska last week, the FBI said.

Senior Airman Brooker Maltais, 22, and Ceara O’Connell of Brighton, N.Y., were seen by a friend of the airman’s at Maltais’ apartment near Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., on Dec. 21, agent James Lovelace said.

Nebraska police, too, say the girl has seemingly chosen to be with Maltais.

``It’s been confirmed by law enforcement on this end they are traveling voluntarily together,″ Lt. Thomas Koksal of the LaVista, Neb., police told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. ``We’re not considering it a kidnapping on this end.″

Koksal would not say how police obtained the information. Authorities in Rochester have Miss O’Connell listed as a missing person.

Maltais is absent without leave after not returning to the base as expected last Monday. The girl, a high school freshman and honor student who relatives said never dated, was last seen by her family at a Rochester mall Dec. 19.

Police believe the two got together after corresponding over the Internet. In one message, Maltais wrote: ``I couldn’t guarantee how much time we could spend together. But at least it would be TOGETHER.″

Maltais may have used a bank card to get cash in the Kansas City, Mo., area a day Dec. 22, a day after the pair was seen in Nebraska.

Fred Hirsch, Maltais’ roommate, oversees the computer chat room where the airman and teen-ager met. He told the Democrat and Chronicle he knew the pair became acquainted on the chat room, an independent site on the World Wide Web devoted to a vampire fantasy role-playing game, but he said they also talked on the telephone more than once.

``I’m at a loss to explain how he might be involved in the disappearance of that girl from Rochester,″ Hirsch said in an electronic mail message to the newspaper. ``Brooker is an intelligent man and has never acted so rashly in the year and a half that I have met him.″

``He knows the difference between reality and fantasy, and I find it hard to understand his actions.″