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A 12-year-old Texas girl missing for more than a week has been found, police say

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Breaking news update, published at 3:15 p.m. ET

E’minie Hughes, the 12-year-old girl who was missing from the Houston area, has been found unharmed, police said in a post on X.

Last seen on February 22, Houston police issued an Amber Alert Wednesday, saying they believe she may have been trafficked.

In their post, police said she was found in Columbus, Texas, which is 73 miles from the Houston area where she went missing.

FBI Houston posted on X, “FBI Houston is proud to have helped rescue yet another missing child. Two kids recovered in two days,” and confirmed to CNN that they assisted in the search for E’minie.

Police did not release any other information and said the investigation is ongoing.

Original story, published at 5:57 a.m. ET

A 12-year-old girl who has been missing for over a week from the Houston, Texas, area may have been trafficked, police said, prompting an Amber Alert.

When E’minie Hughes first went missing on February 22, it was believed she had left on her own, a Houston police spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday. But police have since obtained new information during the course of their investigation that makes them believe that she might have been trafficked, a police spokesperson said.

Police haven’t said what led them to suspect the girl was trafficked.

E’minie was last seen getting into a dark-coloured four-door Dodge pickup around 1:40 a.m. local time while wearing a white crop top and pink joggers, according to the Amber Alert. She went missing in Missouri City, which is within the Houston metro, and is still believed to be in the same area, police said Thursday morning.

Houston police, in a post on X Thursday, said that E’minie may be on a social media app known as Tagged. The social media network “focuses on connecting people for friendship or dating through features like Browse, Meet Me and Live,” according to the platform’s website.

Tagged’s parent company, The Meet Group, told CNN that they have reached out to Houston law enforcement to offer assistance with the case.

“Our terms and conditions prohibit minors from using our apps, and we utilize both technology and manual analysis to help check for minors who may have registered for our platform using a false age,” the company said. “Should we be made aware of any attempts to circumvent our process, we thoroughly investigate any report involving a possible minor user or child exploitation.”

Police did not provide further details on what role the child’s possible presence on Tagged may have played in the investigation. CNN has reached out to the Houston Police Department for further information on the investigation.

 

Mother says she woke up to find daughter gone

 

The girl’s mother, Shannon Williams, told CNN affiliate KPRC that she last saw her daughter before bed on Thursday, but she was gone by the time she woke up.

E’minie is believed to have only taken an Android tablet with her, along with the clothes she was wearing, the mother told KPRC.

Williams told the outlet she doesn’t know if E’minie may have been communicating with someone online. The girl had stepped out for a walk just a few hours before her disappearance, the mother said.

“I pray and hope that she’s not in no type of harm’s way,” Williams told KPRC.

In their last conversation, E’minie asked her mother to wake her up early for school the following day, Williams told CNN affiliate KHOU.

About 460,000 children go missing in the US every year, according to a 2023 news release from the Department of Justice. About 1 in 6 of the more than 28,800 cases of children reported missing to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2023 were likely victims of child trafficking, according to the nonprofit. Last year, the center received more than 18,400 reports of possible child trafficking.

Holly Priebe Sotelo, a social work professor at The University of Southern California, told CNN that it’s important parents maintain “open communication” with their children about establishing healthy relationships and boundaries with others, especially with those they meet online.

“It’s impossible for parents to keep up with the latest threats,” Sotelo said. “Therefore, parents just need to initiate dialogues with their children every day about establishing healthy boundaries.”

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