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A 16-year-old girl from Ohio, missing from her home, was located in Dunnellon, Florida, with the aid of the online game World of Warcraft.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office in north-central Florida, assisted by the FBI, traced the teenager’s active World of Warcraft account to a residence in the area. This massively multiplayer online role-playing game allows millions of players to interact in a persistent virtual world, which became the key to pinpointing her location.

Thomas Ebersole Mugshot

The investigation led authorities to the home of 31-year-old Thomas Ebersole, whose account was also detected at the same address. Initially, Ebersole denied any knowledge of the girl but later confessed to traveling to Ohio to meet her and bring her back to Florida. He was arrested on charges including traveling to meet a minor for sexual activity and interfering with child custody.


Ebersole revealed to authorities his intent to hide the teen in his home and marry her, sharing Discord messages that detailed his plans and acknowledged the criminal nature of his actions.

Ebersole is currently held without bond at the Marion County Jail, awaiting his next court appearance on February 6.


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