Officials say missing teen was first reported as runaway; mom disputes it

The Missing

Breaking update as of Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, 3:30 p.m.: The mother of a New Jersey teen who disappeared and was later found safe in New York City was arrested Friday, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Editor’s note: Though the teen’s name was widely publicized during the search for her, PIX11 News is not identifying her now that she’s been found and is considered the victim of an alleged crime.

Breaking update as of Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 at 10 p.m.: The teen was found in New York City, officials said.

Original story –

NEWARK, N.J. — In a bombshell disclosure in the disappearance of a 14-year-old, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens told reporters Wednesday the child’s mother “reported her as a runaway initially.”

When reached by phone, the girl’s mother, Jamie Moore, refuted the claim.

“That is not true! I said she went to the deli and never came home,” she said.

It was the latest development in a missing persons case that’s become a national news story, even featured on “The View” Wednesday, with co-host Whoopi Goldberg asking Americans to call the East Orange Police, FBI or Essex County Prosecutors if they see any sign of the teenager.

The reward for information on the child’s whereabouts was raised to $20,000 on Wednesday, after a second anonymous donor came forward to add $5,000.

Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said at the press conference anyone who provides information that leads to the teen would be eligible for the money.

“This is about returning someone home,” the sheriff said.

In another notable development, Mitchell McGuire, chief of investigations in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, told reporters there’s no evidence, so far, indicating the teenager was abducted.

“At no point in time did we have any evidence of any foul play,” McGuire said. “We do have evidence showing the young lady in the general area. We do have evidence of the young lady leaving the area.  Nobody was following her at the time.”

McGuire said he was referring to surveillance footage from various cameras, although the surveillance has not been released to the media.

Prosecutor Stephens thanked the news media for covering the girl’s disappearance and said it could be helpful in finding the 14-year-old.

(PIX11 News first reported on the girl’s disappearance in a series called The Missing, an initiative meant to shine a spotlight on the stories of missing persons that may have previously been overlooked.)

Stephens said various agencies would work “to saturate social media” with the missing girl’s pictures and story. He said his office in Essex County would now become the lead law enforcement agency in the girl’s case, although East Orange investigators, the FBI, and the New Jersey State Police would still participate.

He noted 50 law enforcement personnel were fanning the streets of East Orange and surrounding areas Wednesday.

Whatever the circumstances of the girl’s disappearance, she remains a vulnerable young person who could be in danger. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has added the girl’s poster to its website.

“We are analyzing all data; we are following all leads,” said East Orange Police Chief Phyllis Bindi.

A source told PIX11 News that investigators don’t think a domestic violence case from 2020 involving the girl’s stepfather — an East Orange cop — was a factor in her disappearance.

PIX11 News asked Stephens about the police officer.

“We’ve questioned that officer as well as many other people in the case,” he said.

The teen’s mother told PIX11 News she took an FBI polygraph test on Tuesday.

“I believe they’re doing everything they can to find (her),” Jamie Moore said.

Anyone who has tips or information regarding Moore are asked to call the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office at 877-847-7432 or the East Orange Police Department 973-266-5041.

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