Abducted NC teen found 'safe and alive' in Oklahoma, suspect arrested

The FBI and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office found 13-year-old Aubrey Joelle Acree safe and alive in Checotah, Oklahoma just before 11:00 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28.  

Troopers with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and special agents with FBI Oklahoma City Field Office found Aubrey and arrested 23-year-old Jacob Gardea of Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Gardea is facing charges from the state of North Carolina for Abduction of a Child. Additional charges could be pending, authorities said. 

According to the FBI, investigative work by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the SBI, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles led to the exact identity of a vehicle of interest

"I'm just really glad that she's back and i can't imagine what the family was going through for those days. It's a big relief to our community that she's back safe." said Dekota Smith, who lives in the area.

Additional investigative work helped pinpoint the location of the vehicle and additional law enforcement partners were deployed to successfully recover the victim more than 900 miles away from her home. 

Aubrey’s family has been notified of this great news and arrangements will be made in the near future to return her home to her loved ones in North Carolina, the FBI said. 

"Law enforcement is grateful to a keen eyewitness who helped begin our investigative process with a strong lead that brought us to this joyful outcome," the FBI said in a written statement. 

The investigation is ongoing.