SALEM, Ore. -- The parents of a Salem runaway are worried she is with an older man.They reached that conclusion after learning that 13-year-old Melissa Gregory had been living a double life through her computer. On one MySpace account, she provided mostly accurate information about herself but claimed to be 17. On another, she presented herself as a 28-year-old college student.
Through one of those social networking accounts, Melissa apparently got involved with an older man and Wednesday, she disappeared.
Now Melissa's mom has a simple message: just come home.
“I just want to tell her that we love her absolutely with all of our heart,” said Tana Gregory. “She’s not in trouble. We want her home and safe."
Salem police are reviewing the MySpace accounts as part of the investigation, Sgt. Andrew Connolly said Thursday.
“I absolutely think it’s a factor in this,” Tana Gregory said of the internet. She said they’ve discovered that Melissa maintained two pages on the social networking website myspace.com.
Right now, the family has no idea where she is. Melissa’s sister, Ashli Litchfield, said she was shocked when she checked Melissa’s MySpace pages.
“All her friends on here we don’t recognize,” Litchfield said. “They’re not from here. There’s so many different men, it could be any one of them.”
Litchfield had fliers printed up at the Beaverton copy center where she works. The family plans to post them in and around Salem. Police said they have no leads on her whereabouts.
Melissa and her parents argued earlier this week. Her mother said she lied about where she was on Tuesday. She told them she was at the home of a friend they knew, when she was really at the apartment of a 16-year-old girl she met online.
They picked her up and threatened to take away her computer privileges. Tana Gregory thinks she might have snuck out of the house the next morning.
Now the family is searching for clues, and waiting. It’s not easy. “It’s any parents worst nightmare,” said Tana Gregory. “And I prayed it would never fall in my lap.”
Melissa attends school through the Salem-Keizer School District's online program and sleeps in mornings. Her parents left for work at 7 a.m. and did not see her.
"I knew she had a MySpace, but I wasn't particularly worried about it because she had a 17-year-old brother and a 21-year-old sister checking in on her page all the time," Gregory said. "I feel really naive now. I feel I was really blind."