A 53-year-old Washington County man was charged with kidnapping Thursday for allegedly harboring a 14-year-old New York girl after they had phone sex on a chat line.
Michael Angelo Goerlich, of Landfall, arranged to meet the girl Sunday on a street corner near her home in Rochester and persuaded her to return with him to Minnesota, according to the criminal complaint.
An Amber Alert was issued in New York after her parents discovered that she was gone.
On Tuesday afternoon, a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy found the girl in a locked bedroom at the back of Goerlich’s mobile home. She was talking on a cellphone with a police officer in Rochester and “appeared scared and confused,” the complaint said.
Goerlich was charged with one count of felony kidnapping with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct, one count of felony kidnapping with intent to deprive parental rights, and one count of felony false imprisonment/intentional restraint.
He was being held Thursday in the county jail on $1 million bail, and will make his first court appearance May 15.
The girl was being held in protective custody Thursday while arrangements were made to reunite her with her family, said Investigations Cmdr. Brian Mueller of the Sheriff’s Office.
According to the complaint, the girl told officials that she met Goerlich about a year ago in an Internet chat room where he initially masqueraded as another girl.
Once she realized he was a man, she said she halted communications. However, their relationship resumed about a month ago in telephone conversations and text messages.
Goerlich asked that she send him naked photos of herself, and she was convinced he wanted to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship with her, the complaint said.
When he drove to New York to see her, they talked in his car about going to Minnesota. She at first resisted but eventually agreed, the complaint said. He broke her cellphone when it rang.
After returning to his home in Landfall, Goerlich left the girl in a back bedroom while he went to work. She searched for a land-line phone in the residence and couldn’t find one, but finally found a cellphone and was calling for help when she heard Goerlich walking toward the bedroom. She then locked the door.
Goerlich initially told his roommate and a deputy that the girl was 19, the complaint said, but later admitted she had told him that she was 14.
Brent Wartner of the Washington County attorney’s office said Thursday that all parents should take notice of predators on the Internet and the danger of “unsupervised contact” between their children and strangers.
“It’s without a doubt an ongoing issue,” he said.