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By Ashley Thornton
Special to the Beacon
A 16-year-old Ceda Key girl, missing since Saturday morning, was found safe the next day in Williston.
The girl’s mother notified Cedar Key police around 11 a.m. Saturday that she believed her daughter was missing under suspicious circumstances.
The girl had previously been involved with Michael B. Ainsworth, 21, of Morriston, said Police Chief Virgil Sandlin. Both had turned their phones off within two minutes of each other that morning.
“There were a lot of concerned folks about it. It’s understandable,” Sandlin said. “We’re a small community; something like this affects everybody. Her friends and classmates were expecting the worst. It must’ve been a night of living hell for the mother not knowing what the status of her daughter was.”
Officer Maria Brown was the initial responding officer and took the mother’s statement. The Center for Missing and Exploited Children got involved as well as the Federal Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) with the Amber Alert.
Sandlin was on his way to meet with a local television station when he got the call that the girl had been found safe and sound and was at the Williston Police Department.
Ainsworth was arrested for interfering with parental custody – a third degree felony – and for violation of his probation with bail set at $100,000. He has a 2011 conviction in Alachua County for simple battery and aggravated battery on a pregnant person. He is serving one year and four years of probation concurrently.
“It turned out to be a consensual thing, but there are consequences involved with adults and juveniles,” said Sandlin.
According to reports, Ainsworth came to Cedar Key, picked up the girl and went to the Daytona Beach area. How she ended up back in Williston is still under investigation and Sandlin expects that other arrests may be made in the case.
“Unfortunately, it takes a tragic incident to get folks’ attention,” said Sandlin. “Fortunately this did not end tragically. It will be a life-changing event for the suspect involved.”