Federal charges 'possible' in Amber Alert case

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The man who prompted a nationwide search for a 14-year-old girl is now facing more felony charges in connection to his relationship with the teen and his run from the law.

Jacob West, 33, was hit with felony charges just days after disappearing with the daughter of his northwest Harris County neighbors.

"You can't imagine what it's like until it happens to you," said the girl's father, who Local 2 is not identifying.

For six days, the teen's parents agonized over the disappearance their daughter. All they knew is that she had taken off with West, a married father of two. The parents said they became friends with West when they moved into their home and even took him into their house when he had trouble with his wife. The family said the teen was even close friends with one of West's own daughters.

"We thought we were giving back to somebody that needed the help," said the teen's mother. "We never thought … I mean, he was so good with his children."

"Little did we know that while we were sleeping he was taking advantage of our daughter," said the teen's father.

The family then started noticing West was paying a little too close attention to their daughter.

"We sat him down on the couch and said, 'Hey, is there anything going on? We need to know about it right here and now, we'll put an end to it,'" the father said. "Guess what, from here on out I'm calling the authorities."

The family cut off contact with West, but investigators said he continued to see the teen. Sheriff's officials said the pair was caught together on Jan. 15. West was later charged with a felony stemming from that incident, but by that time he had taken off with the teen.

Investigators said during their six-day odyssey, West took the teen through several states, even driving all the way up to New York before heading back down to Florida. Investigators finally tracked down the pair when they turned on the OnStar system in West's SUV.

"I broke down. I was crying. I was happy. I was shaken," said the teen's mother.

Investigators found the pair at a motel in Fort Pierce, Fla. Sheriff's officials said West also had a stolen gun with him. Sources involved in the case also told Local 2 that West apparently funded part of his run from police with stolen credit and gas cards. 

West has also been charged in Florida with having a stolen gun and other crimes.

"There's a strong possibility of federal charges coming from this incident," said Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman, citing that the teen was taken across state lines.

West is being held without bond in a Florida jail. The 14-year-old girl is back home with her parents and gave Local 2 a hand-written note which reads, "Dear Harris County, Sgt. Blackledge, Constable Hickman, Chuck Forman, my family and friends. I want to thank you for spending your time looking for me. It is because of you all that I am not in danger and safe at home with the people I love."

Forman is a Houston area private investigator who offered his services for free to the family after hearing about the case.

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