Missing Tennessee teenager, 18, is found safe in Alabama almost two years after she was kidnapped by her IT expert father who may have ‘drugged her to keep her subdued’
- Daphne Westbrook disappeared on October 6, 2019, along with her dogs from Chattanooga after failing to return home from a weekend visit with her dad
- Officials believe she had been kept either drugged or subdued ever since
- An Amber Alert for Daphne, 18, was cancelled on Friday morning after the teen was found in Samson, Alabama
- The investigation is ongoing and John remains at-large
- He was indicted for aggravated kidnapping and custodial interference
- Daphne turned 18 years old this past weekend, which disqualified her from being the subject of an Amber Alert
- The Holly Bobo Act allowed the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to issue an Endangered Child Alert
A Tennessee teenager who was abducted by her father has been found safe in Alabama almost two years after her kidnapping.
An Amber Alert for Daphne Westbrook, 18, was cancelled Friday morning after the teen was found in Samson, Alabama.
She disappeared October 6, 2019, along with her dogs, Fern and Strawberry, from Chattanooga, failing to return home from a weekend visit with her dad, John Westbrook, 42.
Officials said she had been kept either drugged or somehow subdued ever since, according to FOX 13.
In a statement released to WRCB-TV, the Hamilton County district attorney said John Westbrook remains at large.
John is an IT expert specializing in security, blockchain technology, and Bitcoin, which may be part of how he’s been evading authorities for months.
Tennessee IT expert John Westbrook, 42 (right), is accused of kidnapping his now 18-year-old daughter, Daphne (left), and holding her captive for more than a year before she was safely found this week
‘We are thankful Daphne is safe and no longer being held by her father,’ District Attorney Neal Pinkston said.
He said the investigation is ongoing. ‘It is especially gratifying to be able to tell her mom that Daphne is free and no longer being hidden,’ Pinkston said.
‘This doesn’t change our goal to find and prosecute John Westbrook. Our investigation remains active and we expect new developments within the next couple of weeks.’
Daphne turned 18 years old last weekend, which disqualified her from being the subject of an Amber Alert. But the Holly Bobo Act – named for a 20-year-old who was kidnapped and murdered a decade ago – allowed the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to issue an Endangered Child Alert on Sunday.
‘We’re very grateful for it [Holly Bobo Act],’ Daphne’s mother, told WRCB-TV last week. ‘We’ve been searching for my daughter for a long time and we won’t give up until we know she’s safe. It’s comforting to know that the search won’t end just because she had a birthday.’
Authorities believe Westbrook has been plying Daphne with drugs and alcohol to keep her under his control
The Hamilton County District Attorney’s office told DailyMail.com that Daphne was pulled over around 1:30am on Friday in Samson, Alabama for a traffic violation.
She appeared ’emaciated and uncooperative,’ the DA office said, and said she was going to see her aunt in Sebring, Florida, because her father had allowed her to visit.
The Endangered Child Alert flagged cops when they ran her license, the DA’s office added.
Her father was indicted for aggravated kidnapping and custodial interference in February. Around the time of his indictment, Daphne managed to send a message to a friend, expressing a desire to hurt herself.
In March, investigators raided the Sebring home of John’s sister after they found communication between the two. They seized her electronic devices during the raid, FOX 13 reports.
‘Please know that nobody is angry. You are so loved,’ Daphne’s mother, Rhona Curtsinger, said at the time, addressing her daughter. ‘It is not your fault you are in that situation. This is not her fault. I need her to be OK. I need that. I will do everything that I can to make sure that she is.’
Westbrook had spent more than a year eluding the police by relying on his advanced information technology skills, and aliases and disguises.
An Amber Alert for Daphne Westbrook, 18, was cancelled Friday morning after the teen was found in Samson, Alabama
Daphne Westbrook disappeared on October 6, 2019, along with her dogs, Fern and Strawberry, from Chattanooga after failing to return home from a weekend visit with her dad
Pinkston told WDEF in March that Westbrook purchased hair dye and false teeth, to alter his and Daphne’s appearances. Authorities believe he was plying his daughter with drugs and alcohol in order to keep her under his control.
Daphne was last seen in the Denver, Colorado, area in November 2020.
In February, Daphne’s Bible, which she got as a gift from her grandparents for her 16th birthday, was found in a trash can outside of a Trader Joe’s on West Cordova Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Also in February, Westbrook spent several weeks in the Pueblo, Colorado area.
Westbrook, an IT specialist, was known to be shopping at stores in Santa Fe, New Mexico (pictured)
Westbrook is an IT expert specializing in security, blockchain technology, and Bitcoin, The News Tribune reports.
‘He is communicating in a way that’s almost impossible to trace, which makes it extremely difficult for investigators to generate significant leads in this case,’ stated the DA. ‘We know he is earning money contracting with small businesses to do computer security work.’
Pinkston said that Westbrook was using as many as 20 different email addresses and 10 aliases.
Daphne’s mother told WRCB-TV in March that the last time she saw her daughter was October 4, 2019, before she left to spend the weekend with her father at his home on Florida Avenue in Chattanooga.
Two days later, Curtsinger said she received a message from Daphne, asking her for permission to return home a couple of hours late. She never made it back.
Prior to her disappearance, Daphne was happy and doing well in school, Curtsinger said. She described the teen as fun and inquisitive.
‘The only thing that we knew was that she was sad because her dad was moving away to another state,’ Curtsinger said.
Daphne’s mother said she was devastated that her daughter was taken away from everything and everyone she’s ever known, but always remained hopeful that the teen would be found.
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