Missing teen found in Monette, minister arrested

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A missing 17 year old girl from Nebraska was found living in Monette on Wednesday, March 21. A Monette minister, Charles Hughes, 35, was arrested in connection with disappearance of the teen. At the time of his arrest, Hughes was serving as minister of the Monette Church of Christ.

Charles Hughes

Monette Police Chief Brian Carmichael said Monette police officer Brandon Womack received a call on Sunday night, March 18, from investigators in Fairbury, Neb., working the missing person case. It was suspected the girl was in Northeast Arkansas. Chief Carmichael said the mother of the missing teen was able to pull up text messages and recognized the number to be Hughes.

On Monday morning Monette officers got a warrant for Hughes phone records and discovered his phone was in Nebraska on January 20, the day the teen went missing. Carmichael said Hughes was out of town on Tuesday and when he came back the Sheriff's Department interviewed him in Monette and decided to take him to the Sheriff's Office for further questioning.

"He admitted to a sexual relationship with the teen but would not give up her location," Chief Carmichael said. "Sheriff Jack McCann decided we needed to get the teen's picture out as a missing person and a woman in Monette recognized the girl's picture and gave authorities the location where she was living. The teen was using a false name."

She was found living in a mobile home rented by Hughes.

The teen is a cousin to Hughes' wife.

Hughes was arrested and charged with first degree sexual assault, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and obstructing governmental operations.

He appeared in court on Thursday for a hearing. Special Craighead County District Judge Curt Huckaby set a $100,000 bond. Hughes' next court date will be April 13 at the Lake City Court House.

"Officer Womack did a good job," Chief Carmichael said. "He worked around the clock from Sunday until the teen was located on Wednesday. It was a joint effort with the Monette Police officers, the county officers and assistance from detectives from Jonesboro Police who work with internet crimes all working together. There may be federal charges pending."

Chief Carmichael said the teen had been released to her grandmother.

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