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Ex-Marine says missing girl 'safe'

Studabaker, Pennington
Studabaker and Pennington flew from Manchester to Paris.

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A recently discharged U.S. Marine from Michigan who disappeared with a 12-year-old English girl says the missing girl is safe. WSBT's Kirk Mason reports (July 16)
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TIMELINE
• July 11, Studabaker flies from Detroit to the Netherlands. He then flies on to Manchester 
• July 12, Studabaker and Pennington meet at Manchester airport 
• The couple take a flight to London Heathrow, arriving around 1700 GMT 
• The pair board at flight from Heathrow to Paris Charles de Gaulle, arriving at 1900 GMT 
• The trail goes cold 
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A 31-year-old U.S. man, believed to have run off with a 12-year-old British girl, contacted his family and told them the girl is unharmed, his brother said Tuesday.

Former U.S. Marine Toby Studabaker -- who is thought to have flown to France on Saturday with the girl, Shevaun Pennington -- also said he had contacted the FBI in Detroit and wanted to turn himself in.

"He told us that Shevaun is fine and that he had not touched or harmed her in anyway," Leo Studabaker told CNN in an interview in Three Rivers, Michigan.

He said the girl had written a letter stating that she had not been harmed by Studabaker.

However, he added that his brother "wouldn't tell us where he was."

French authorities said Tuesday that Pennington had boarded a flight in Paris Saturday at 10:45 p.m. and arrived at Liverpool John Lennon Airport at 11:20 p.m. local time.

But Manchester police spokesman Peter Mason said investigators are "very, very dubious" about the report and do not believe that the "S. Pennington" listed on the EasyJet flight was Shevaun.

"We have been informed by Interpol that an S. Pennington did leave Charles de Gaulle airport at about 10:45 on Saturday evening," Mason told reporters.

"However, we are very, very dubious that that is our Shevaun Pennington, as that S. Pennington was part of a group of five persons," he said. "We're...making enquiries with EasyJet and obviously John Lennon airport in Liverpool and also Charles de Gaulle airport."

Pennington, from Greater Manchester in northern England, was reported missing by her parents Saturday night after she disappeared early that morning. The families of the pair have urged them to contact the authorities. (Full story)

A search of her belongings and computer files revealed she had been conducting a year-long relationship on the Internet with ex-U.S. Marine Studabaker, who left the military last month.

Officers alerted Interpol and warnings were issued in an attempt to stop the couple leaving the country. But by then, Shevaun and Studabaker, who police say has no criminal record, were already in France.

Sgt. Peter Mason, of Greater Manchester Police, confirmed that Studabaker, who was based in North Carolina and who had served in Afghanistan, had flown from Detroit to the UK via the Netherlands Friday, arriving in Manchester early Saturday morning.

The said the couple had then met up and flew to Heathrow before catching a flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, where they arrived at around 8 p.m.

However, a spokesman for French police said there was currently no documentary evidence of their arrival in Paris. Mason said police were examining airport CCTV footage in an attempt to pinpoint their movements.

Studabaker bought tickets in advance for himself and Shevaun to fly from London to Paris, Mason said.

Studabaker's brother Leo told CNN that Toby Studabaker, whose wife died last year, believed the girl was a 19-year-old college student.

He said he did not think the girl was in any danger with his brother, but he urged them to contact authorities wherever they are.

"I'm hoping that Toby sees this and he will go to the nearest consulate or embassy -- contact the local authorities, whatever -- so we can get this straightened out."

Shevaun's parents, Stephen, 43, and Joanna, 42, pleaded with their daughter on Monday to come home or to let them know she was safe.

Her mother wept as she begged her daughter to come home. "Please we just want you back, we're not angry with you, we love you very much and just want you to come home."


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