OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. (AP) — Two Illinois men face kidnapping and conspiracy charges in Mississippi after authorities say they lured a teenager from his home using a video game-centered chat program.
Olive Branch police have charged Juan E. Andrade, 30, and Jason St. Aubin, 29, both of Creal Springs, Illinois. It’s unclear if either man has a lawyer. Both men are being held on more than $600,000 bail and are supposed to be returned to Mississippi in coming days
They’re accused of picking up 14-year-old John Aubrey Peal III in the middle of the night Aug. 1 around the corner from his home in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee. Peal’s father, John Aubrey Peal II, tells local news outlets that Andrade and St. Aubin had spent months manipulating his son using the Discord application, ultimately persuading the boy that Peal was saving the men from killing themselves.
“I saw these two men’s mugshots, and I’ve seen the devil,” the father said. “These people are predators. They lured my son out with the false belief that he was saving their life from suicide.”
After four days during which Peal’s disappearance was publicized on social media, Williamson County, Illinois, Sheriff Bennie Vick said Peal appeared Sunday at the Lake of Egypt Fire Department and asked firefighters to contact “proper authorities.” He was reunited with his family later that day. The father credits the publicity with spooking the men.
“The captors decided they needed to get rid of him,” he said.
The sheriff said St. Aubin was with Peal at the fire station.
Williamson County deputies arrested Andrade and St. Aubin Monday after staking out their house. Illinois officials say they’re considering additional charges.
Peal doesn’t think his son was physically hurt, but hasn’t asked him much about what happened during the four days, during which the men fed the boy hot dogs and frozen pizza.
“Right now, I’m bonding with my son,” the father said.
Developer Discord Inc. urges users to only chat with people they know. It also says it urges parents to teach children about the risks of communication with unknown people.