TIVERTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A Tiverton man was arrested last week after a missing 13-year-old girl from Pennsylvania was found by police at his grandparents’ home.
William Caldwel Stewart, 19, was charged with first-degree child molestation and ordered held without bail at his arraignment last Thursday, according to Tiverton police.
The preliminary investigation revealed Stewart and the girl had met online before he picked her up at her home in Pennsylvania and brought her to Rhode Island, staying at several locations along the way.
Tiverton police said they were alerted to her possible location by Pennsylvania State Police, who had been pinging her phone unsuccessfully until it was suddenly turned on. The girl’s friend also provided Pennsylvania authorities with a Snapchat photo showing houses in the area of High Hill Road, according to Tiverton police.
Officers responded to the home on Wednesday and found Stewart and the girl in the basement. After speaking with her, they took him into custody, police said.
Family members of Stewart were at the home, according to police, but there was no evidence they were aware the girl was underage.
The owners of the home told 12 News that Stewart is their grandson and he lives in Pennsylvania. They said he and the girl had come up for the Fourth of July, and she told them she was 18 and wore a wig to conceal her age.
The girl was taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital for evaluation and turned over to the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).
Police say they’re now investigating whether she was being held against her will, which a friend of hers had reported to authorities in Pennsylvania.
Stewart’s grandparents told 12 News they feel bamboozled by it all, and neighbors said they were shocked when they heard about it.
“They’re very friendly and they’ll do anything for you. I just feel bad that the grandson did this,” Gail Gousie said of the couple. “They would never allow anything like this to happen if they knew.”
“It makes you a little uneasy,” she added.