Pittsburgh police arrested a Marine who they say traveled to the city Christmas Eve to meet his 13-year-old Internet lover and ask for her hand in marriage.
Lance Cpl. Johnathan M. Plaisance, 20, took a bus to Pittsburgh from Camp Lejeune, N.C., met the girl and then boarded a bus with her to return to the base, police said Wednesday.
Investigators tracked the pair to a bus station in Harrisburg and arrested Plaisance, several hours after the teenager’s family woke up on Christmas morning and discovered her missing.
“The girl was at home when everyone went to bed and was missing when they woke up,” said city police Lt. Kevin Kraus. “A sibling told us that she had been gathering up some makeup at about 12:45 a.m. and phone records indicated that a suspicious call was received at the house at 12:34 a.m.”
Relatives of the girl, who is home-schooled, told investigators she has never run away and is not defiant.
“We just had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right,” Kraus said.
Detectives traced the girl’s contact with Plaisance by examining the family computer and her MySpace account, and determined she took a taxi about 1:30 a.m. and met Plaisance at the Holiday Inn off Route 28 in O’Hara, where he had booked a room about a month ago, Kraus said. Police believe the two had been communicating by computer for at least the past six months.
Investigators checked credit card receipts at the motel and learned that Plaisance purchased two pornographic movies there, according to a police affidavit. Investigators collected sheets and other items from the motel room for processing, the affidavit states.
The girl was taken to a local hospital to be examined and then returned to her family. Police declined to say whether she had been sexually assaulted.
Investigators believe Plaisance planned to take her back to Camp Lejeune because he purchased a round-trip ticket for himself and a one-way ticket for the girl, Kraus said.
“When she was taken into custody she was in possession of a diamond engagement ring and it appears that during the encounter (with Plaisance) he proposed (marriage) to her and she accepted,” Kraus said.
The FBI and Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.
FBI Special Agent Rob Ambrosini said Plaisance could face federal charges.
“The fact that he traveled with the intent to have certain relations with a minor says a lot about the case,” said Ambrosini. “The (U.S. Attorney’s office) and the FBI are going to be looking at what type of potential prosecution can be made.”
A Marine Corps spokeswoman declined to say whether the military would take disciplinary action against Plaisance, who is assigned to the 2nd Intelligence Battalion at Camp Lejeune.
Police declined to say if Plaisance has a criminal record or whether he knew the girl’s age. Police said he is unmarried, but did not know if he has children. Plaisance joined the Marines in June 2005 and is trained as an intelligence communications operator, according to military records.
Plaisance, a native of Jefferson, La., was charged with interfering with the custody of a minor and concealing the whereabouts of a child. Additional charges could be filed, police said.
Plaisance was being held last night in the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bond.