An Iowa man has been arrested by federal authorities in connection with the disappearance of a 14-year-old Harrison girl on New Year's Day.
Joseph Donnell Foster is charged in Chattanooga Federal Court with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity and with coercion and enticement.
There was a statewide search for the girl by the TBI and other agencies and she showed up safe at her grandmother's house in Clarksville, Tn., on Jan. 9.
The criminal complaint against Foster said the girl left a suicide note. It also says that authorities learned that an individual had given the girl access to his Amazon account and had sent packages to her. It was found that she had purchased three pregnancy tests using the Amazon account funds.
The complaint says the girl had multiple social media accounts. It "was believed that she was being sexually exploited online, and an FBI investigation was opened."
On the evening of Jan. 9, the girl called her grandmother in Clarksville and said she wanted to come home. She was recovered and has been placed in protective custody.
The complaint says it was found that the girl "most likely was advertising and/or performing explicit sexual services" online. She had an account set up and in one instance "Joe" paid her through the account.
"Joe" was traced to Joseph Foster, of North Liberty, Iowa.
Foster was interviewed by FBI agents at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Jan. 9. He admitted to recognizing the girl from a photo shown him, but he said it was only through a chat forum they both were in. He denied ever meeting her in person or knowing anything about her whereabouts. He denied providing her payments online.
Before the agents left the Foster residence, they said Foster's ex-wife advised them that she had caught Foster having conversations with what appeared to be underage girls on Snapchat. She said he was in possession of what she believed to be child pornography. She turned two hard drives over to agents.
She said that Foster was away on New Year's Day - the day the 14-year-old girl disappeared from her Hamilton County home. She said he told her he had to travel to Georgia to deal with "a Cashapp fraud." The complaint says both Foster and the girl at one time had Cashapp accounts allowing funds transfers online.
Agents interviewed the girl several times. They said at first she was not forthcoming about what had happened. But in a Jan. 14 interview she said on Jan. 2 that Joe Foster, who she had met on Snapchat, had picked her up here in his dark-colored truck for them to travel to Iowa.
The girl said she only packed one outfit, left the suicide note and deleted her Snapchat account. Along the way, she said she threw her cellphone into a body of water.
She said Foster got her a hotel room for a couple of days and he bought her hair dye and new clothing and food. After those two days, she said Foster snuck her into his house, where the ex-wife was living upstairs. She said Foster and the ex-wife had a baby together.
The girl said the ex-wife did not know she was there and she had to sneak around the house. She said when the FBI agents arrived to interview Foster, she was hiding in the garage by the stairs.
She said after the visit by the FBI that Foster "freaked out" and drove her to Clarksville, where her grandmother lived. She said he told her not to disclose that she had ever left the state. She said she went to someone's house and called her grandmother.
The girl said she first began talking to Foster on Snapchat when she was 13. She said he had traveled to Tennessee on two occasions in 2020 to meet with her overnight at a hotel.
The grandmother said the girl had disappeared on a couple of prior occasions. She said once in the summer of 2020 after one of the disappearances she found a pair of the girl's bloody underwear.
The girl said at their first meeting she and Foster just kissed. She said he asked her on Snapchat for sexual explicit images of her.
In still another interview, the girl admitted that while in Iowa she had sex with Foster.
Foster was arrested in Iowa last Thursday.