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Cops: Missing girl was seen in Missouri

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Jan. 9 -- The 'probable sighting' a 14-year- old missing upstate New York girl is leading investigators to believe the teen is voluntarily with the airman who romanced her by computer before her disappearance. Sgt. Mike Conner of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department says a teen resembling Ceara O'Connell was spotted Dec. 28 at a restaurant in Independence, Mo. He says that after showing witnesses photos, the FBI is calling it a 'probable sighting' of the girl, who vanished Dec. 19 from a mall near her home outside Rochester, N.Y. The honor student is believed to be with Brooker Maltais (mal-TAY'), a 22-year-old airman who has been absent without leave from the Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb., since last month.

Maltais had been corresponding with O'Connell by computer, sending her love letters that talked about marriage and a Christmas week meeting, before she bolted out of town. Conner says that a man tentatively identified as Maltais was with O'Connell at the Rhineland Restaurant in Independence. And, he says, 'all indications are that she was in this guy's company willingly.' The couple's surfacing has calmed fears of an abduction. Conner says, 'We hope she's safe, but we're taking nothing for granted.' The two have not been seen or heard from since Dec. 28, and Conner says investigators are hoping for 'a big break.' ---

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Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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