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Missing Tennessee girl, 18, allegedly kidnapped by father in 2019 found safe; likely hidden for some time in Colorado

Authorities still searching for father
Daphne Westbrook vehicle
Posted at 8:37 AM, May 28, 2021

A missing 18-year-old girl out of Tennessee who was allegedly kidnapped by her father, and likely hidden for some time in Colorado, has been found safe.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Friday morning that Daphne Westbrook, 18, was found safe in Samson in south Alabama — about 10 miles north of the Alabama-Florida state line — around 1:30 a.m. on Friday. She was pulled over for a traffic violation, according to Denver7's sister station ABC15 in Florida. According to the local district attorney's office, her father and alleged kidnapper, John Oliver Westbrook, let Daphne go and was sending her to his sister's home in Sebring, Florida, ABC15 reported. The district attorney's office previously said the sister was not cooperating with investigators.

The car that Daphne was driving had a Colorado license plate.

Daphne Westbrook vehicle
Daphne Westbrook, 18, was pulled over in south Alabama in this vehicle on May 28, 2021. The vehicle has Colorado plates.

Daphne has hired a lawyer and has refused to say anything, the district attorney's office said.

Kerry Clewell, special projects investigator for the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office in Tennessee, said it was clear when authorities pulled her over that she didn't know what to do and is likely unsure who she can trust and who she can't.

Clewell said they're not yet sure what she's been through, but she recognized him and was leery of him.

"She did not want to talk to us at all," he said. "She said we were playing tricks on her and were giving her false information but didn't want to say what the false information was."

She was polite and kind throughout the interaction, he said, even though she didn't want to cooperate.

Daphne Westbrook_found picture_May 28 2021
The Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office released this photo of Daphne Westbrook, 18, when she was stopped for a traffic violation on May 28, 2021. She had been missing since October 2019 and her father is accused of kidnapping her.

When asked about the photo released by the district attorney's office of Daphne smiling when she was found, he said, "I was not surprised at her state because I knew that for the last 18 months that she had been withheld from social interaction, from education, from healthcare. ... I took it more as a reaction with the smile and the laughter — that seemed kind of inappropriate. But I don't think it was inappropriate for her mind frame."

He said the car she was found in was purchased by John when he first moved out west and disappeared. He said the district attorney's office has found the person who sold him the car. The man who owned it previously had let his son use it in college in Colorado, which is why it had the Colorado plates, Clewell said.

The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office in Tennessee said they are now focused on locating John. Clewell said they're not sure where he is.

"He is very, very good at hiding his physical location," he said. "Whereas you and I — we could commit a crime, turn the location off on our phone. There are still apps that are tracking you. You're still pinging off cell phone towers. He knows all of that stuff. He's tech savvy when it comes to that. And he is making it extremely difficult to find his exact location."

He said every time they had evidence that Daphne was alive, they'd alert her mother.

"Her one emotion was just absolute relief," he said about telling the mother the good news Friday morning.

He said the mother, who was in nursing school, and Daphne, who was in high school, were supposed to graduate together this year.

Daphne was allegedly kidnapped by her father in October 2019. Daphne, plus her two dogs Fern and Strawberry, disappeared from Chattanooga, Tennessee after a weekend visit with John, according to the district attorney's office in Hamilton County, Tennessee. She was being kept against her will and the district attorney's office said they believed he was keeping her incapacitated, according to ABC15.

As early as November 2019, authorities suspected she may be in Colorado.

She was seen in Denver in November 2020 and John spent several weeks in Pueblo in February, the district attorney's office said.

In early March 2021, authorities said there was increasing concern for her safety. Again, they announced they believed John had been traveling around western states, including Colorado, with Daphne. The district attorney's office said Daphne was being held against her will and could not communicate with the outside world. Based on the investigation.

John is an IT expert and specializes in security, blockchain technology, and bitcoin, and was earning money by contracting with small businesses to do computer security work. The district attorney's office said he was communicating in a way that was almost impossible to trace.

An Amber Alert was issued on March 12.

It was canceled on May 28 after she was found safe. Authorities are still looking for John.