A police manhunt is under way statewide for a Jacksonville sexual offender suspected of kidnapping a 15-year-old Central Florida girl he met on the Internet.
William Joe Mitchell, 46, had been communicating with Alyssa Frank on her Myspace.com account and she told friends she was planning to run away for love, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told the Times-Union this morning.
Alyssa's parents noticed she was missing shortly before 6:30 a.m. Monday from their home near Bartow and called police. Investigators learned about Alyssa's communication with Mitchell - he led her to believe he was 24 years old - and put out a statewide Amber Alert this morning. They said they believe Mitchell traveled to Bartow from Jacksonville to pick up Alyssa.
"He is predator and a pedophile and he groomed this child and convinced her this was a loving relationship," Judd said. "She left under the cloak of darkness in the middle of the night to be with him."
Jacksonville police went to Mitchell's last known address in the 1400 block of Lane Avenue, but did not find him. He moved there about two weeks ago from another Jacksonville home in the 2200 block of Evergreen Avenue. Judd said other sexual predators lived at that home.
State records show that Mitchell was released from the Baker County Correctional Institution in December after serving a sentence for lewd and lascivious battery on a girl in St. Johns County. He is on probation in that case.
Records also show other convictions for Mitchell as far back as 1981, all but one in St. Johns County. Those included prison time served for accessory to armed robbery, escape, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and grand theft auto.
Judd said police have no idea where Alyssa and Mitchell were headed.
"We believe she's in grave danger," Judd said. "Our goal is to find her and return her to her family alive. Our second goal is to take Billy Joe Mitchell into custody."
Mitchell, also known as Billy Mitch, is a white male, 5-foot-10, 158 pounds with brown eyes and blue hair. He also has tattoos of "Lisa" and a cross on his left arm, "We" and "Bill" on his right arm and "Love" on his fingers.
He was last seen driving a 2000 black Chevrolet Lumina with license plate G02-5EL.
Alyssa is a white female, 5-foot-9, 200 pounds with hazel eyes and curly brown hair. She has freckles and three piercings on both ears. She may be wearing a pink or black "Tinkerbell" shirt, jeans and black tennis shoes with gray and black checkered shoelaces.
Anyone with information should call the Polk County Sheriff's Office at (863) 533-0344, (800) 226-TIPS or 911.
Stay on the lookout regardless of where you are, as police have no idea where the two are headed, but especially stay sharp if you live in Florida. That's someone's daughter, sister, niece -- try to help police bring her home safe.
This will be the only story I post today as I consider Amber Alerts to be of upmost importance, and this one in particular involves a criminal in my own city. Look at the picture, memorize it, and stay alert.