MOBILE, Ala. (NewsNation) — An Alabama family is fearful their 18-year-old daughter might be in danger after she fled the country with a disgraced priest.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office says it appears the priest, Alex Crow, and the teen, who authorities refused to name, carried out an inappropriate relationship before escaping to Italy.
Since then, her family has attempted to bring their daughter home, having some communication with her. But she refuses to come home.
Mobile Police Sheriff Paul Burch said her parents have been able to talk with her on the phone, and so have investigators. However, none of them have been able to talk with her on the phone without Crow being there as well.
“Right now, she seems to be safe,” Burch said. “But one thing we were able to ascertain is that he will not let anyone talk to her without him being present, even when talking to her parents”
Investigators have combed through a revealing love letter Crow wrote to the teen on Valentine’s Day of this year.
In the letter, Crow says, “I promised to always care for you and protect you, like a father.”
“You are mine, no one else’s and I will always be a father to you until I die. Now, we are in love and we are married,” he continued.
Police have not been able to confirm the marriage between Crow and the teen after checking local records from Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Burch said it appears that Crow does exercise a degree of control over her and that she feels like she needs to be there.
“She’s a young, impressionable kid,” Burch said. “As an authority figure, he has exerted that control over her for a number of years.”
Investigators believe Crow had been grooming the girl for at least two to three years prior. Burch said there was even another teenager that Crow had a close relationship with a while back, and was ordered to discontinue the friendship.
But the Alabama girl is legally an adult in the U.S., which means they can’t force her back to the states.
However, Burch said there is an Alabama law that prohibits any sort of authority figure, including coaches, teachers and even a volunteer employee, from having a relationship with a student under the age of 19.
He said age has been a huge factor in this ongoing case because the teen is under 19 years old and it is believed that the relationship began when she was 15 or 16 years old.
An investigation and effort to bring the teen home is currently ongoing.