Kidnapped teen's secret message, father's communication with Florida relative produce new leads
SEBRING, Fla. - Daphne Westbrook didn't come home from a weekend trip to visit her father, John Westbrook, back in October 2019. Ever since, law enforcement has been searching for the pair, under the belief Daphne has been drugged or otherwise subdued.
Investigators are now ratcheting up efforts to find them after Daphne managed to send a message to a friend to say she was considering self-harm.
Daphne's mother, Rhona Curtsinger, spoke to FOX 13 from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
"Please know that nobody is angry. You are so loved," she said as a message to her daughter. "It is not your fault you are in that situation. This is not her fault. I need her to be OK. I need that. I will do everything that I can to make sure that she is."
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Curtsinger says she did not realize her ex-husband -- whom she divorced in 2009 -- had the potential to be a dangerous person until after her daughter was taken.
"Looking back, hindsight, it is much clearer when you are in the moment," she said. "There were a lot of warning signs. I just didn't see them."
After John Westbrook drove with Daphne in an unknown vehicle throughout the southwestern United States, the district attorney in Tennessee issued a warning they could be headed to Highlands County, where Westbrook's sister lives in Sebring.
Home of John Westbrook's sister, in Sebring, Florida, raided over the weekend
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Investigators say they found communication between Westbrook and the sister. Her home in Sebring was raided over the weekend, where investigators confiscated her electronic devices.
Daphnie with her dogs, which went missing when she did
"Please share this story with every single person that you know," Curtsinger said. "If you think you see her. If you think you see him, reach out."
Westbrook was indicted last month on charges of aggravated kidnapping after Daphne managed to send a message to her friend to say she wanted to hurt herself.
Images showing possible appearance of John Westbrook and Daphne Westbrook
John Westbrook is considered an expert in disguise, has shielded their phones from detection and uses cryptocurrency. Investigators believe he is keeping her drugged in order to control her.
"I need the steps to be taken to give her the emotional and physical support she needs," said Curtsinger. "Every teenager deserves that. Every person deserves that."
The FBI is planning to interview Westbrook's sister in the coming days. They say there have been no confirmed sightings of Daphne or John Westbrook in Florida.
Anyone who may have spotted Daphne or John is asked to call the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office at 1-423-209-7425, or dial 911. Tips can be submitted to FindingDaphne@hcdatn.org.
John Westbrook possibly seen on security camera
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that there had been a confirmed sighting of the pair in Florida. This version has been updated.