Nintendo Switch Helps FBI Locate Abducted Teenager

An abducted teenager is now safe at home, thanks in part to the collaborative work between Nintendo and the FBI, as well as volunteers from Hear Their Voices. ABC15 reports that the unnamed child disappeared from her Virginia home on August 3, 2022. She was missing for 11 days before the FBI and Tolleson police pinpointed her location and surrounded her abductor’s apartment in Arizona.

The story starts, naturally, in Virginia. Shortly after the then-14-year-old went missing, volunteers from non-profit organization Hear Their Voices came to help. They posted flyers the next day and canvassed nearby neighborhoods in wider circles day-by-day. However, they didn’t know that the girl had already been taken on a bus more than 2,000 miles away.

Her abductor was reportedly a 28-year-old man, Ethan Roberts. He made friends with the victim on the internet, before going to Virginia to abduct her, according to court documents.

When the 14-year-old was taken from Virginia, she was allowed to bring her Nintendo Switch games console. ABC15 reports that during her captivity, the victim watched YouTube and downloaded a game, thereby dropping “digital breadcrumbs.” Thanks to a connected Switch gaming friend in her Virginia locality, authorities were alerted.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

“The fact that somebody else down the road — another child — was bright enough to go, ‘Hey, look, my friend is online, and she’s been missing, and I need to tell somebody’” was pivotal, retired Arizona DPS Director Frank Milstead, explained to ABC15. Remember, the poster campaign by Hear Their Voices will have helped raise this local awareness.

After the digital breadcrumbs were picked up, on day 10, the FBI and Nintendo worked to locate the girl’s Switch console via its IP address. She was freed from Roberts’ apartment the next day, and is now at home in Virginia recovering from her ordeal.

Ethan Roberts was “indicted in federal court for charges including child pornography and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity,” says ABC15. Roberts subsequently made a plea deal, and this April began a sentence of 30 years in federal prison.