A man has been charged with kidnapping in the case of a missing girl who used hand signals that went viral on TikTok to show a driver she was in danger.
The girl was inside a silver Toyota when she made the gesture, created to address a worldwide rise in domestic violence, towards a motorist in another vehicle.
The man who was arrested, 61-year-old James Herbert Brick, of Cherokee, North Carolina, has now had his charge increased to kidnapping.
Laurel District Judge John Paul Chappell approved a prosecutor’s request during a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Police testified at the hearing that Brick, who had initially been charged with unlawful imprisonment, threatened to kill the girl’s dog if she tried to get away.
The girl’s parents reported her missing from Asheville, North Carolina, last week.
Two days later, she made the hand signal to the passing driver, which helped Kentucky sheriff’s deputies stop the car and arrest Brick, according to the authorities.
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The girl was also mouthing “send help,” and was visibly upset when officers got to her, Lt Chris Edwards of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office testified.
“She was physically shaking, crying,” he added.
The gesture, which went viral on TikTok and across social media last year, involves putting your palm up before tucking your thumb in and closing your fingers.
It was launched by the US-based Women’s Funding Network and the Canadian Women’s Foundation during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to help address a rise in domestic violence during lockdown.
Explained: The hand signal that lets people know you’re in danger
The girl told officers she had travelled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio with Brick, who was acquainted with her family.
She had willingly left North Carolina with Brick, but later began to fear for her own safety, Mr Edwards said.
Police also charged Brick with possession of material portraying a minor in a sexual performance over an image they saw on his phone, according to a citation.
The judge increased Brick’s bond from $10,000 (£7,400) to $50,000 (£372,000) and sent the case to a grand jury.
The public defender’s office, which is representing Brick, declined to comment.