California girl fled to escape arranged marriage

LOS ANGELES Thu Mar 3, 2011 6:56pm EST

13-year-old Jessie Marie Bender is shown in this photograph released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department March 3, 2011. Bender, who ran away from home February 22, 2011 to escape an arranged marriage in Pakistan has been taken into protective custody by child welfare authorities, police said on March 3. REUTERS/San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department/Handout

13-year-old Jessie Marie Bender is shown in this photograph released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department March 3, 2011. Bender, who ran away from home February 22, 2011 to escape an arranged marriage in Pakistan has been taken into protective custody by child welfare authorities, police said on March 3.

Credit: Reuters/San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 13-year-old Southern California girl who ran away from home to escape an arranged marriage in Pakistan has been taken into protective custody by child welfare authorities, police said on Thursday.

Jessie Marie Bender, who vanished from her home in the early morning hours of February 22, was found on Wednesday at a motel in a nearby community, where she had been hiding with the help of an uncle, San Bernardino County Sheriff's spokeswoman Roxanne Walker said.

The middle school student, who was missing for eight days, was physically unharmed.

"She ran away because she didn't want to go to Pakistan. She was afraid," Walker told Reuters.

The girl was taken into protective custody, along with her three siblings, after detectives corroborated her story, Walker said.

A spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office said prosecutors would weigh possible criminal charges against members of her family once police presented them with the case.

Jessie was initially reported missing from her home in the desert community of Hesperia, about 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles, by family members who said she may have run away to avoid going on a two-month trip to Pakistan.

Several days later, Jessie's mother, Melissa, told police she believed her daughter had been abducted by someone she met on Facebook -- a claim that triggered an exhaustive hunt for the teen involving local police, the FBI and U.S. Marshals, Walker said.

After an investigation turned up no evidence that Jessie had been kidnapped, Walker said, detectives discovered that an uncle had taken her to a motel in nearby Apple Valley out of fear that she would be taken to Pakistan for an arranged marriage.

Walker said Jessie and her mother were American but that the girl's stepfather was a Pakistani native. It was not immediately clear if the girl's mother and stepfather are married.

"She was afraid to go to Pakistan and she didn't want to go back home because she was scared," Walker said. "We're just glad she's OK."

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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Comments (3)
JamVee wrote:
Both the mother and her “boyfriend” should be prosecuted to the extreme limits of the law.

Anyone immigrating to the US, should be forced to agree to abide by the laws and customs of this land. They cannot be allowed to bring their corrupt, evil, and depraved practices and customs to the US. They must leave them where they belong, in the DARK AGES!

Mar 03, 2011 4:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
pjgatorjg wrote:
just send them all packing back to where they come from,
they come over here- do not follow our rules / but want to keep there sick ways????? send them all back now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Mar 03, 2011 5:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Naksuthin wrote:
There’s not much information here.
“She was afraid to go to Pakistan and she didn’t want to go back home because she was scared,”
The article only said she was scared.
It does not say the parents were planning to marry her off.
The Uncle may have been under the impression that she could be married off in Pakistan…but that could just be the Uncle’s unfounded fears.
Not enough information for anyone to start spouting off their opinions one way or the other.

Mar 03, 2011 5:33pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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