COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. - Angela M. Tschida, the 14-year-old Cottage Grove girl who police think left town with a 36-year-old sex offender, gave friends no indication she was troubled or planning to run, said friend Cole Bertram.
"She seemed normal," Bertram said. "She seemed happy."
Bertram said Tschida had a lot of friends and was in frequent contact with them before she left.
"I have a text from her almost every day saying 'Hey, what's up,' or 'Hey, what are you doing?'" Bertram said.
That's why it was obvious when the text messages stopped July 1. On July 2, Tschida, left town without a trace.
Police believe she is with Alexius J. McMullin, who WCCO television has reported used to date Tschida's mother.
Bertram said he was shocked to hear Tschida left with McMullin because he remembers that last fall at the Cottage Grove Middle School lunch table she called McMullin "a creep" who tried to kill his ex-girlfriend.
"She tried to make him look like she didn't like him at all," he said.
Bertram had no idea Tschida had any relationship with McMullin, he said. When Tschida first went missing, Bertram said he wasn't overly worried because she had run away from home before.
"She would always find her way back home," Bertram said. "She wouldn't go far, just to the surrounding cities to a friend's house."
The longest she was gone before was about three days, he said. Now that it's been three weeks since anyone's heard from Tschida, Bertram's scared, he said.
"My fear is that she's been sexually abused and that she's hurt somewhere," Bertram said.
Friends and family of Tschida are consoling each other through a Facebook Page Bertram created.
He said his message to Tschida is, "please come home, give us a call, just let us know that you're OK."
Police believe Tschida went with McMullin voluntarily.
Since she went missing, police have been talking to friends, doing forensics on the family's computer and following other leads, said Cottage Grove Police Department Detective Tom Ueland. They decided to publicly release the information about the disappearance when they became confident she was with McMullin, he said.
McMullin is computer savvy, and has done some computer programming work, Ueland said. Neither computer trails, nor cell phone signals have given the police clues about where the two are, he said.
"She has hidden all of her tracks," Ueland said.
Police believe the two might be somewhere in the southwest United States, he said.
Tschida goes by the nickname "Angi" and she is 5 feet 9 inches tall and 160 pounds. Her navel is pierced and she has blonde highlights in her hair, according to a Cottage Grove Police Department press release.
McMullin was convicted of sexually assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend at his mother's Cottage Grove home in May of 2008.
In that incident, on May 2, 2008, he allegedly threatened the woman with a samurai sword, and pushed his thumbs on her esophagus, cutting off her airway for several seconds, according to a Washington County Court Complaint.
He then allegedly raped the woman, during which he threatened to kill her and her family if she told the police, the complaint says.
He was on probation for his conviction related to that incident, but the courts were set to consider revoking his probation in September 2009, said Washington County Attorney Doug Johnson. He apparently began hiding from police sometime between then and January of this year, when a warrant was issued for his arrest, Johnson said.
Minnesota Bureau of Apprehension records show that McMullin was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon in Panama City, Fla., in 1993, according to the complaint.
Hennepin County also has a warrant out for his arrest. He was convicted of fourth-degree DWI and careless driving in Hennepin County in 2006.
Anyone with information that might be helpful to police should contact Washington County Communications at (651) 439-9381, Detective Tom Ueland at (651) 458-6012 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
Patricia Drey Busse is a reporter at the South Washington County Bulletin in Cottage Grove, Minn., which is owned by Forum Communications Co.