TELLICO PLAINS, TENN. - A 6-year-old girl who was reported missing in Minnesota has been found safe in East Tennessee, and will soon be reunited with her father.
According to Brian Cooney, his daughter, Claire, was taken in late February by her mother and her mother's fiance, Jonathan Bromen.
Bromen was wanted on several charges, including felony theft.
Claire's father said he shared custody with the mother and they had a court date on Feb. 28 to discuss custody matters but she didn't show. That's when he said they learned the fiance had a felony warrant out for his arrest.
After the trio disappeared, Brian and his attorney got an order of protection against the mother, granting him sole legal custody of Claire.
An Amber Alert was not issued, but Cooney used social media and hired a private investigator to look for them. Because both adults had family in Tennessee, the private detective traveled to the state and began handing out flyers in rural areas.
On March 2 the owner of Becky's Thrift Store in Centerville called authorities to report a couple with a child shopping for camping gear. The little girl apparently told the store owner they were going "off the grid."
"They said that they were going to live off the grid. And when they were at the store they purchased like tarps, ropes, hacksaws, camouflage clothing and they even bought my daughter a stainless steel switchblade knife," Cooney explained.
On Sunday, March 12 the owner of William's Deli in Tellico Plains called police after seeing a couple and a little girl walking down a road near his business. He thought they resembled pictures he had seen on a flyer passed out by the private detective. Officers responded and the girl was rescued.
According to the incident report, officers caught up with the three at a store on Hwy. 68 in Tellico Plains, where Bromen was arrested on outstanding warrants from Otter Tail County, Minnesota.
The mother told officers that they had been camping off Joe Brown Highway for about a week and that she was Claire's legal guardian.
Officers took Bromen to the Monroe County jail and transported Miranda and Claire Cooney to the sheriff's office. An emergency Order of Protection against the mother was faxed over from the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office and DCS was called into help deal with the custody issue.
The mother faces no charges in Tennessee, and was released.
Claire is staying with members of her father's family, who drove up from Atlanta, until he can get here.
"I've spoken to Claire on the phone and they've sent me some video of her and she seems really excited and really happy," he shared, "and she mentioned to a family member of mine that she was really excited about being able to sleep in a bed again."
Cooney said his daughter's blonde hair had been cut and dyed black with blue streaks to conceal her identity.
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