Marley McKenna Spindler, age 16, was all set to start the first day of her junior year at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, grabbing breakfast at a local Chik-Fil-A fast food joint, then heading to an ATM to get some cash — and then she disappeared.
That was August 20. Now, six days later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is jumping into the effort to find Marley Spindler — even though local police in Horry County say they have no reason to suspect foul play.
The cops seem confident that the teen disappeared on purpose, even though the last anyone heard from her was in a group text message to some of her friends — a text in which she darkly warned that she was being followed.
“They all thought she was joking and didn’t think that much of it,” said the girl’s aunt, Shelly Long, to the NBC News program Dateline. “We can’t rule out that she was abducted, but we also have to face that maybe she ran away. We just don’t know.”
To make the story even more puzzling, police released a photo of the car that Marley Spindler was driving the morning she vanished — a silver 2002 Ford Escape with South Carolina license plate No. KFI776.
That’s not strange — but what is strange is that the photo was taken, according to a report in Myrtle Beach Online, by a “law enforcement agency” before the teen girl disappeared. Why a law enforcement agency took a picture of her car before the day of her disappearance remains unclear.
Her cellphone was found the morning she vanished in the parking lot of Ocean Reef Resort, a seaside hotel in the popular beach community. Police scanned her cellphone and say that what they found there tells them that the teen was not abducted, but “she left alone and not under duress or coercion,” according to Horry County Police Lieutenant Raul Denis.
“We have no reason to believe that there is any foul play involved in this case,” the officer added.
The last known photo of Marley Spindler (above, left) was taken by a bank surveillance camera when she withdrew less than $100 before disappearing.
She told some friends that before heading to school she planned to pick up a man she met on the beach over the summer. But that man, a 22-year-old named by police only as “Jeremy,” was interviewed by investigators and “cleared,” they said.
Denis said they verified that “Jeremy” was in fact at work that whole day.
“I just want her to know that if she’s able to see this news, your momma and daddy and family love you so much, and we just want you back home safely, baby,” Long said in an interview with TV station WBTW on Monday. “If you’ve made any mistakes in this, just please come home. That’s really what we just want.”
Marley McKenna Spindler is described as 5’8″ and 105 pounds. Her hair is brown with blonde highlights and her eyes are brown. The Horry County Police ask anyone who might know what happened to Marley Spindler to call (843) 915-8477.
[Images: Horry County Police, Facebook]