Parents of Jessie Bender, 13, Lied About Daughter, Cops Say; Was Trying to Escape Arranged Marriage

Michael Sheridan, Daily News, March 3, 2011

Jesse Bender was believed to be a runaway, then possibly a victim of a child predator, in a series of false reports made by members of her family, police say.

A 13-year-old girl reported missing by her parents was really trying to escape an arranged marriage in Pakistan, police said Wednesday.

Jessie Bender’s folks told authorities last month their daughter ran off because she didn’t want to go on a two-month family trip to her step-father’s native country. They then falsely claimed she was abducted by someone she met on Facebook, officials said.

However, after weeks of investigating leads that wrangled the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Office and police departments nationwide, authorities say it was all a lie.

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Police soon discovered that another family member had helped the young teen hide out in Apple Valley, about 30 miles from her hometown of Hesperia in Southern California, to avoid becoming a Pakistani man’s bride.

Bender, as well as her three siblings, were taken into child protective custody while authorities decide whether to recommend filing charges against her family, San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.

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The parents’ claim that she had been kidnapped sparked a nationwide investigation, involving both local and federal agencies. {snip}

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Above: Jessie Bender; below: mother and step-father.

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