SHELBYVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A 12-year-old girl was troubled and looking for a friend.
Through her older brother, she found 21-year-old Charles Forrest Smith, detectives said, and chatted online with him for more than two months.
But Smith has been in the Shelby County Detention Center since Tuesday, charged with felony kidnapping -- a conviction that could net him more than 10 years in prison.
"This isn't like a 17- or 18-year-old high school student that has decided to skip school," Shelby County Sheriff's Office Maj. Jason Rice said. "This is a very young person in our community that has made a very poor choice, and then an adult compounded that situation, that poor choice, by agreeing to pick up that student."
The girl had ditched her first class at Shelby County East Middle School on Tuesday morning, Rice said. Smith picked her up in front of Shelby County High School's greenhouse across the street.
But her friends gave school administrators and investigators valuable evidence.
"They actually saw something that they realized was out of place and actually snapped some pictures on their phones," Rice said. "So we were actually able to get a picture of the van we were looking for minutes into the investigation."
Investigators reached the girl's mother, who dialed and texted her daughter's cellphone.
"Once they realized that parents, school, law enforcement all were looking for them, they decided it was best she just get out of the vehicle," Rice said. "She wasn't too far from the school."
The girl was back safe with her mother an hour after she left. Detectives arrested Smith at his grandmother's house in Frankfort, which he also calls home.
"We don't believe there were any intentions there, but they had developed a friendship that they furthered on social media," Rice said.
Added school district spokesman Ryan Allan: "The continual message needs to be responsible usage of these things."
Every student in Shelby County Public Schools is issued a Google Chromebook, along with instructions regarding appropriate and safe surfing of the Internet and social media, Allan said.
"She was using her own phone," Allan added. "But with her friends, I think there's a feeling that we do a good job of taking care of each other."
Smith is being held in the Shelby County Detention Center on $15,000 bond.
"There are resources for you to talk to," Rice said. "Teachers, counselors -- you don't have to reach out on social media. Let's get with the people we trust."