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Search continues for missing Southport teen

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SOUTHPORT — The search for 14-year-old Emily Paul enters its fourth week Saturday.

Law enforcement believes she is still in Bay County and simply doesn’t want to go home, but her mother said this week that’s not like her daughter, who was family-oriented even at 14. She always wanted to be with her mother, Pamela Massimiani said.

“That’s not my kid,” Massimiani said. “My kid wouldn’t do that.”

Paul packed some bags full of clothes, a laptop and an X-box before she walked down the driveway to a waiting vehicle April 13, according to police records. Before she left, she wrote a note to Massimiani.

The contents of the note were omitted from a public record provided to The News Herald by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and Massimiani didn’t want to talk about what it said. BCSO investigators decided to investigate Paul as “missing endangered based on the comments.”

Paul was “not a constant gamer,” Massimiani said, but she spent enough time on X-box live, an online multiplayer video game platform that allows users with the right equipment to talk to each other live during play, to meet an adult man from Chicago living in Madison, Wis.

Investigators have given the case the full-court press, officials said, in part because they initially believed that she might have, at least, left the state with an older man she met online.

“We did even more on this case because of the fear that she was with that guy,” said Maj. Tommy Ford with the Sheriff’s Office. “And we continue to follow all leads in the case.”

Investigators got some help from police in Madison, and the man was arrested on misdemeanor warrants there. Police there talked to him and were able to clear him from suspicion, Ford said.

 

Where is she?

Investigators now believe Paul remains in the area — and that is where Massimiani’s account starts to diverge from BCSO’s.

BCSO officials, however, said there has been a confirmed sighting near Econfina Creek; someone who knew her saw her April 26 and called out her name. Paul reacted to her name but turned away and left the area when recognized, Ford said.

There also have been unconfirmed reports she was at Pier Park early in the investigation and another April 30 near County 77 and State 20, where someone matching Paul’s description was panhandling, Ford said.

Massimiani said she’s aware of only one sighting, near Econfina Creek, and she doesn’t believe it was her daughter.

 “I wouldn’t care if she handed a note out to everybody in Bay County that said, ‘I’m running away,’ ” Massimiani said. “To me it doesn’t seem like a runaway.”

Part of the reason Massimiani bristles at the use of the term runaway is that it creates the perception Paul is not endangered and people will grow less concerned. She points to a federal law that says anyone under 18 whose whereabouts are unknown to their custodian is considered endangered.

Massimiani, along with friends and family, have created a Facebook group called “The search for Emily Paul” to share information amongst the groups 3,000-plus members. She searches for Paul everywhere she goes, and she’s posted numerous fliers and billboards advertising Paul as missing.

“I’ve been to just about every corner of Bay County looking for my child,” she said.

She doesn’t think her daughter is aware of all the effort to find her.

“If she’s seen it, she would’ve called someone,” Massimiani said. “Any one of us would go get her, no questions asked.”

Can you help?

Emily Paul is a white female who stands nearly 5 feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds. She has blue eyes and braces on her teeth, her ears are pierced in the traditional manner, and she has brown hair that she changes frequently, said her mother, Pamela Massimiani. She may go by the nickname “Em.”

Paul went missing from her Southport home April 13 and has not had contact with her family since that day. Anyone with information about her whereabouts should contact the Bay County Sheriff’s Office at 850-747-5079.

Massimiani said many businesses have taken down the “missing” fliers recently, perhaps out of confusion after another child went missing and was recovered. She hopes people and business with fliers will keep them posted until her daughter is located.


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