Social media used in capturing Cochran teenager

She was taken 700 miles away from her home to Springfield, Illinois.

COCHRAN, Ga. — A four-day interstate search ended with a 911 call from a tearful teen.

The police chief in Springfield, Illinois says that’s how they located the man accused of kidnapping a Cochran 13-year-old.

The Springfield man accused of kidnapping the Bleckley County girl is Zachary Despain.

Right now, he is in Sangamon County jail in Illinois with bond set at $500,000.

Despain is being accused of using social media to contact and kidnap the 13-year-old girl who reportedly walked away from her Cochran home last week.

“I don’t want to get into what apps. We are still doing forensics on the digital evidence,” said Springfield’s Police Chief Joshua Stuenkel.

According to Stuenkel, police responded to a 911 call just before 7 a.m. Saturday from a 13-year-old girl.

She said she had been taken from Georgia. 

Officers found her crying on the steps of 930 East Monroe Street, about a block from the police station.

“Our officers met with her, confirmed that she was missing from Georgia, and took her to the hospital,” said Stuenkel. 

From there, Springfield Police checked nearby surveillance cameras and noticed a vehicle, and matched a description of a vehicle that Georgia law enforcement said was possibly involved in the girl’s disappearance.

Stuenkel also said, “Looking at that vehicle, we had found that a police officer had actually been behind that vehicle at one point and ran the license plate of that vehicle, so that led us to the suspect.”

Stuenkel says they found the vehicle about two miles away, at the home of Despain, a registered sex offender.

Police got a search warrant for the vehicle and the house, where they found him alone.

The chief says they questioned Despain at the police station and arrested him.

He says the case should be a lesson for parents.

“Definitely be aware of what your children are doing on social media,” said Stuenkel.

Despain now faces charges in two states.

In Georgia, he is charged with Interference with custody, enticing a child for indecent purposes, trafficking of person for labor or sexual servitude, and kidnapping.

Now, Chief Stuenkel wouldn’t get into a lot of details about the case, such as explaining what social media platform Despain allegedly used, or describing his conversations with the girl.

So far, he’s also not saying what charges Despain will face in Illinois.

According to the chief, Illinois state law banned sex offenders from being on social media, but courts threw it out and said that was unconstitutional.

According to Bleckley County’s District Attorney Tim Vaughn, the girl returned home from Illinois Sunday night, escorted by law enforcement and her mother. 

Vaughn says he hasn’t filed a request to bring Despain back to Georgia.

He says the Georgia charges may have to wait until Illinois courts are done with him.

Kevin Rowson, Public Affairs Specialist for the FBI, says the FBI is assisting the GBI and Bleckley County Sheriff Office in the investigation.

She was taken 700 miles away from her home.

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