The police say she was kidnapped, but Alexis White disagrees.
White, 17, said the March 19 incident that led to the arrest of Cameron Snody, an 18-year-old from Texas, on kidnapping charges was just three teenagers making an impulsive decision to run away.
She and her father, Jake White of Winchester, told The Sentinel in an interview Wednesday they want the charges against Snody dropped.
“He had no intent on harming us,” she said. “... It was kind of like a joyride.”
N.H. State Police announced the charges against Snody in a news release the afternoon of March 19. In the release, the agency said Swanzey police had asked for help with a “reported kidnapping.” It said Snody had traveled there to meet a 17-year-old girl he had been talking to online, then driven to New York City with her and her 15-year-old friend.
An affidavit written by a New Hampshire state trooper that day, and obtained by The Sentinel Monday, indicates that Alexis White and her older sister had picked Snody up from the airport more than a day earlier, and that Snody, White and the 15-year-old discussed running away before they drove to New York early Friday morning.
Snody was charged under a part of New Hampshire’s kidnapping law that makes it a crime when someone “takes, entices away, detains, or conceals” a child under 18 who isn’t a relative “with the intent to detain or conceal” the child from a parent or guardian.
Alexis White said she and Snody met on a messaging app a few months ago. They ended up having feelings for each other, and she asked him if he could fly to New Hampshire to meet her, she said.
Though she didn’t tell her parents, knowing they wouldn’t approve, she arranged for Snody to stay at her older sister’s house. She said she, her sister and her sister’s boyfriend picked him up from the Manchester airport on Wednesday, March 17.
The next day, Alexis White said, her 15-year-old friend came over to meet Snody. Alexis White said Snody was not the one who brought up the possibility of running away, and said it was a bad idea before eventually agreeing to it.
“It was not his idea,” Alexis White said. “He really just wanted to sleep.”
They left around 3 a.m. in a car Snody had previously been given permission to use, though he told police he didn’t have permission to drive it out of state. (He was charged with larceny but Jake White said the family has no interest in pressing charges over the car.)
She said that after they reached New York, her father called to tell her that they had to come back, Amber Alerts had been issued and the police had been notified. Her friend called a family member, and the Swanzey Police Department began using cellphone pings to track their location, according to the affidavit.
Jake White was able to speak to Alexis and then directly to Snody. Jake White said he told Snody that if he drove straight back, nothing would happen to him, and gave him directions. Snody said they were on their way back, according to Jake White and a summary of the conversation that appears in the affidavit.
White said he decided to call police again after all just to be safe. According to the affidavit, Swanzey police were already pinging a cellphone in the car and notified Connecticut State Police of its location. Police stopped the car, which was headed north on Interstate 91, and arrested Snody without incident, according to a report from a Connecticut state trooper.
Body camera footage released by Connecticut State Police and aired by a Fox affiliate shows officers pulling Snody out of the car and onto the pavement.
Looking back, Jake White said he now believes the whole thing could have been avoided if he had been, as he put it, a little less overprotective in the months leading up to it.
He’d been aware his daughter was talking to Snody online, but had refused when she had asked if Snody could come visit. “I wasn’t even willing to be open-minded and hear her out,” he said.
White said he was irate when he first learned they’d run off. “When I called those police, I wanted that kid hung,” he said.
He said he has since read some of the messages they exchanged, and said he saw nothing predatory, but rather Snody trying to build his daughter up.
“He’s not a predator, he’s not an animal,” Jake White said. “That kid is a normal, well-adjusted kid from a good home who just got in a big misunderstanding.”
Jake White said he has explained to N.H. State Police that he wants the case dropped entirely.
The Sentinel does not know the identity of the 15-year-old, and so could not reach out to her family for comment.
N.H. State Police declined to comment. “The investigation remains active and ongoing,” Paul Raymond, a spokesman, said in an email Thursday. “The NH State Police will release further information when it is available and appropriate to do so.”
Cheshire County Attorney Chris McLaughlin did not respond to a request for comment about how his office plans to handle the case.
The Connecticut public defender who represented Snody at a bail hearing this past week did not return a phone message, and efforts to determine whether Snody has a lawyer in New Hampshire were not successful.
A Connecticut judge on Monday reduced Snody’s bail to $10,000, of which only 10 percent must be paid. It was not clear whether he remained in custody as of Friday.
White said any parent would freak out to find a child missing, and he’s glad police located the group safely. But at this point, he doesn’t see why it needs to be a criminal matter, saying “his life should not be destroyed over this.”
“How many kids sneak off with their friends and go to concerts in Mass.?” White said.
Jake and Alexis White spoke out to WMUR this past week because, Jake White said, they felt the situation had been misrepresented.
Jake White said that since his name became public, strangers have harassed him and his family online, despite not knowing the facts. He said it’s taken a mental toll. One reason he agreed to speak to The Sentinel, he said, was because he wants the harassment to stop.
Alexis said her dad has mostly shielded her from that. But she’s wondering if the courts will even allow her to talk to Snody while his case is pending, and is worried about how he’ll be affected by all this.
“I want it to be closed,” she said. “I want him to be able to get out and live his life again. I don’t want him to be behind bars. I don’t want him to have his whole life ruined over something that was … a big misunderstanding.”