Federal prosecutors today charged a Missouri man with sex trafficking of children after he allegedly met up with a 17-year-old girl in Medfield this week and disappeared with her for more than two days.
Stephen Ardrey of Springfield, Mo., who made an initial appearance in federal court in Providence this afternoon, also faces a charge of transporting a minor with intent to commit criminal sexual activity.
Brittany Thompson disappeared after allegedly leaving the Medfield Public Library on Monday afternoon with Ardrey. She wasn’t found until Thursday morning when she and Ardrey were spotted in Coventry, R.I.
“The case against the defendant is very strong,” Rhode Island Assistant US Attorney Adi Goldstein said today in court.
Goldstein said Ardrey had a criminal record that included prior sex offenses. The defense did not seek bail. US District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan did not set a further hearing.
Sullivan agreed to seal the law enforcement affidavit supporting the charges, meaning no further details were available publicly about Ardrey’s alleged motive and plans, where the two went, and what they did.
Thompson and the man were spotted at 6:48 a.m. Thursday by a passerby in Coventry who recognized them from news reports, police said. The passerby contacted police, who responded to the scene and took them, without incident, to the Coventry station for questioning.
“This individual’s quick response by notifying law enforcement was paramount to putting an end to the anguish the victim’s family was experiencing not knowing their daughter’s whereabouts. By smartly alerting law enforcement, he furthered the investigation which led to the arrest and detention of the defendant,” Rhode Island US Attorney Peter F. Neronha said in a statement.
Maureen Thompson, Brittany’s mother, said this week that her daughter is “not emotionally a 17-year-old” and finds it easier to chat with people on the Internet than making friends.
Thompson’s parents drove to Coventry, about 50 miles away, after learning their daughter had been found. In an interview with Providence station WJAR-TV Channel 10 on Thursday, Michael Thompson, Brittany’s father, said his daughter “seems to be in very good condition, very good spirits. She’s doing well.”
Coventry police were being assisted by the US Department of Homeland Security, the Massachusetts State Police, and the West Greenwich, R.I., police.
The discovery of the pair ended an agonizing vigil in Medfield, where residents had been shaken by surveillance images that showed Thompson leaving the library with a man wearing a black T-shirt that read “Sons of Anarchy” and “Fear the Reaper.”Brian MacQuarrie of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.