HAMILTON, Mich. — A 34-year-old California man is under arrest after picking up a teen girl in Allegan County and driving her to Missouri early Tuesday morning.
Nancy Baker, the mother of 13-year-old Rachel Baker, said investigators told her that her daughter and Joseph Arpin claimed they were visiting friends and planned on returning to Michigan when he was arrested in Crestwood, Mo. near St. Louis.
Family members say Baker met Arpin in an online chat site that pairs people up through Skype. However, they say Arpin took it one step further after striking up a relationship.
Nancy Baker said he drove to Michigan to meet her daughter, and eventually took her out of state.
Family members say it appeared that Arpin was in Michigan for about two weeks, secretly meeting with Rachel at a nearby elementary school and possibly sleeping in a nearby church parking lot.
“You can’t tell me they just went on a sight-seeing trip,” Nancy said.
Before she got the news late Tuesday afternoon, she was beside herself with worry. Nancy said Rachel had popped the screen out and put it under her bed at some point early Tuesday morning and left a note under her pillow telling her mom that she was leaving with him.
She said Rachel had struggled emotionally in the past and often felt like she didn’t fit in and talked of suicide. She was on medication and had received counseling to help with some of those issues when Nancy feels Arpin found her online and took advantage.
“It’s hard to believe that you don’t know what your children are doing,” she said.
Arpin allegedly told Rachel at some point before the two left Michigan that he was trying to help her.
“That’s basically what he says to her,” said Nancy. “‘I want to help you. Your parents can’t help you. I want to help you get through this.’ Through what? Through being a teenager?”
Rachel’s sister said that he had proposed to Rachel on Skype.
Nancy was unaware of the online relationship until Arpin called the home about two weeks ago. She said she told him to leave her daughter alone over the phone and discovered from Rachel’s siblings that he had driven to Michigan and had been meeting with her near their Hamilton home.
Nancy called the sheriff’s office and believed that deputies had taken care of the situation until her daughter went missing Tuesday morning.
“I praise the lord for protecting her because if it wasn’t for him this guy would have got away with something,” said Nancy.
She said although she had prohibited her children from being on Facebook and on the computer at home, she discovered that Rachel had been using her Nintendo to get online.
Arpin could face kidnapping charges in Allegan County when he’s brought back to Michigan from Missouri.