Odyssey of US girl lured on Internet 'romance'

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The Independent Online

Los Angeles

A 13-year-old Kentucky girl apparently lured from home by love letters on the Internet has been found in Los Angeles.

The disappearance of Tara Noble two weeks ago had revived fears that children can be prey to temptation via on-line computer chat services. She had apparently made a cyberspace date with "George from San Francisco", who told her: "We can run around our room naked all day and all night."

The girl disappeared two months after her family bought a computer. She was picked up by the FBI at a Hollywood Boulevard telephone booth after ringing her parents in Louisville to say she wanted to come home.

Though the FBI would not comment on the theory that she had run off in search of love, the authorities have long been concerned that children could be lured into illicit sex or pornography via computer services. "This case demonstrates the need for parents to provide oversight and guidance to their children in the use of computers to ensure they are being used properly," the FBI said.

A spokesman for America Online, the service the girl was using, said parents have the option to block "chat rooms", where Tara may have met her Romeo.

She apparently flew from Kentucky to Birmingham, Alabama, where she spent the night with another of her correspondents. She then struck up a friendship with a girl on a Greyhound bus to California but disappeared again at a stopover in Odessa, Texas.

The other girl's grandmother later saw reports, which included a photograph of Tara, whom she recognised,and she called the police.

Authorities are still trying to establish the details of Tara's adventure but said when she turned herself in she was scared and lonely.