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13-Year-Old Girl Who Was Reported Missing Turns Up With 38-Year-Old Man

December 29, 1995 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ A 13-year-old girl who vanished in September after making arrangements to work on a book project with a 38-year-old neighbor was reunited with her mother Friday, and the man was under arrest.

Jessyca Mullenberg and Steven Paul Oliver were found Thursday night at a motel on the city’s northeast side. Jessyca seemed to be in good condition, Houston FBI agent Rolando Moss said.

``It’s pure ecstasy,″ her mother, Monica Bourget, said at a tearful reunion at Houston Intercontinental Airport. ``We waited so long for the nightmare to be done. We’ve waited for the miracle to happen.″

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Oliver and the teen-ager apparently had been in Houston for a couple of months, staying at various motels. Moss said authorities are unsure whether she went with him voluntarily.

Oliver was in the Harris County Jail without bail, charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and felony interference with the custody of a child. Wisconsin authorities were investigating whether to charge him with kidnapping.

Jessyca’s mother, who lives in Wausau, Wis., with her husband, Jake Bourget, said she had worried for two years that her former neighbor would abduct the girl.

The girl was last seen on Sept. 16 in Eau Claire, about 90 miles from Wausau, during a weekend visitation with her father, Dale Mullenberg.

She vanished after making arrangements to visit a library and work on a book project with Oliver.

Mrs. Bourget said Oliver had moved in next door to the Bourgets’ home in Eau Claire in 1991 and befriended the neighborhood children, including Jessyca.

When the family left for Wausau, Oliver moved there too, but Mrs. Bourget warned him to stay away. He returned to Eau Claire, moving in across the street from Jessyca’s father.

Mrs. Bourget said Oliver told the neighborhood children he knew people at a publishing house and could help them get their writing printed.

Family and friends had distributed more than 15,000 posters with Jessyca’s photograph as part of a nationwide search.

A rebroadcast Thursday night of Jessyca’s case on the television show ``America’s Most Wanted″ led to a break in the case, and FBI agents were notified that Jessyca and Oliver were staying at a Days Inn in Houston. The FBI said Oliver was working at the motel as a painter.

Jessyca, flanked by FBI agents and wearing an FBI baseball cap, was at the gate when her mother stepped off the plane. The two embraced tightly and wept.

``She’s weary,″ Mrs. Bourget said. ``She’s a 13-year-old baby. She’s not meant for this kind of hell.″