A 10-year-old Texas girl who went viral with the #StandWithSophie campaign last year is now missing and feared to have been abducted.
Sophie Long (above) was last seen on July 12 in Seguin, Texas. Authorities believe she is with her father, 42-year-old Michael Long, who does not have legal custody of the girl. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Long may be driving a white 2010 Ford Edge SUV, or a gray van “with blacked out windows.”
While their possible destination is unclear, Texas authorities are considering the possibility that Long has driven out of state to somewhere else in the Mountain West region — or whether he might even be in South America with the girl.
Police are describing the case as a possible “family abduction,” and are soliciting the public’s help if they see anything regarding the vehicle, or the father and daughter. In a statement released to the media about the possible kidnapping, the Texas Department of Public Safety wrote (below):
“Missing juvenile is believed to be with her non-custodial parent, Michael Long, and may be en route to Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Mexico or Argentina. Michael Long is possibly driving an off white 2010 Ford Edge SUV or a gray van with blacked out windows, a NRA sticker and a black rack on top. Missing juvenile has a small burn mark on one of her arms.”
As many will recall, Sophie was the child who sparked the #StandWithSophie campaign after she was filmed in a viral video screaming for help during a custody hand-off in August of last year. She was desperately clinging to the seats of her father’s car in that video, and accusing her mother’s fiancé of sexual abuse.
The elder Long posted the video online and eventually started a GoFundMe account that received $200,000 in donations to help pay legal fees in his custody battle with Sophie’s mother, and his ex-wife, Kelly Long. Eventually, though, Kelly was granted full custody of Sophie and her two other children a month after the video first went viral. She has steadfastly maintained that none of her children were sexually abused in her care.
According to DailyMail.com, a source close to Kelly’s side believes Sophie “was coached to fabricate the [sexual abuse] claims by her father.” Nevertheless, the viral video sparked outrage immediately after it was posted online, and Kelly received hundreds of abusive emails, harassing calls, and even death threats in response.
Even after a judge granted Kelly full custody of Sophie and her two younger brothers in September of last year, she still recalled the time as being “heartbreaking, terrifying, and beyond comprehension.” She eventually hired lawyers to try to address Michael’s claims of sexual abuse and get the GoFundMe page taken down — which she says “intentionally misleads the public with false claims and has sparked dangerous calls for violence.”
After divorcing in 2015, Kelly remained in the family’s marital home, and so the children were kept there with her to maintain stability. Michael moved to Gilbert, Arizona, and met his new wife, Kourtney Chalmers. Since then, both he and Kourtney have “made several outcries” about sexual abuse in Kelly’s care.
However, a source close to Kelly’s side of the family reported that the Department of Child Protective Services (CPS) has been called several times and nothing has ever come from it. The source explained (below):
“Multiple medical providers, including a pediatrician, hospitals, and (CPS) have all ruled numerous times, after multiple medical examinations, that there is no evidence of any sexual abuse or neglect, nor evidence to support other outrageous claims made by Michael. Sophie, and her brothers have all undergone extensive interviews with forensic psychologists, under the direction of CPS. During all interviews with these professionals, Sophie has never expressed an outcry. She has apparently only done so when coached by her father Michael Long and stepmother Kourtney Chalmers during self-produced videos.”
As for Michael’s side of the story, he previously told the outlet that he couldn’t understand why courts and family services organizations weren’t intervening in the alleged sexual abuse:
“It felt just awful [to hear what she said] and you feel disgusted all the time, especially with everybody telling you right and left that it shouldn’t be this hard to remove a child from an abusive situation. I just don’t understand why everybody just keeps throwing them back to the wolves.”
Whatever is going on with this endless custody battle and its aftermath, let’s just hope Sophie — and her brothers — are somewhere safe and not being harmed or taken against their will.
What a sad, sad story…
[Image via Texas Department Of Public Safety.]
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