A Tennessee man indicted for kidnapping and holding his 17-year-old daughter against her will since October 2019 is believed to be in Florida, according to officials.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued an Amber Alert for Daphne Westbrook on Friday, March 12 after she and her father, John Oliver Westbrook, were last seen in the Florida Panhandle.
The amber alert comes two days after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert of their own.
John Oliver Westbrook kidnapped his daughter, Daphne Westbrook, in October 2019. Daphne, as well as her two dogs Fern and Strawberry, disappeared from Chattanooga after a weekend visit with her father, according to the district attorney's office in Hamilton County, Tennessee.
"Daphne is being held against her will, unable to communicate with the outside world," the district attorney's office said. "Our investigation shows she is endangered both physically and mentally and is routinely being drugged and/or kept drunk to incapacitate her."
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said Daphne has occasionally communicated with a friend back in Tennessee over the past year-plus and said that her computer was behind locked doors and her phone was wrapped in aluminum foil so it could not be tracked. Pinkston added that Daphne told her friend that she had virtually no interaction with anyone besides her father and that she was “very depressed” and expressing suicidal ideations.
Who is John Westbrook?
John is an IT expert and specializes in security, blockchain technology, and bitcoin, and is earning money by contracting with small businesses to do computer security work. The district attorney's office said he's communicating in a way that's almost impossible to trace.
“We have anywhere from 15 to 20 or more Google Voice numbers, or voice-over-IP numbers, which the beauty of those is you can’t ping them for any location data,” Pinkston said. “And he uses Proton mail accounts, which are out of Switzerland, and it puts any IP address history we’ve got – he’s always logging in through a VPN through either Switzerland or Sweden. So, it’s virtually impossible to track him."
Pinkston said that two or three years ago, John took Daphne away for a summer vacation for 2-3 months and never told the girl's mother where they were. But he said no charges were brought out of that incident.
He has been indicted on a charge of aggravated kidnapping.
Where could John and Daphne be?
Daphne was seen in Denver in November 2020 and John spent several weeks in Pueblo in February, the district attorney's office said.
Pinkston said in an interview that investigators know that John has made relatively recent purchases in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well, and had been previously known to be in Albuquerque when one of the microchipped dogs was turned in and picked up by John Westbrook.
"Due to publicity in the Denver media market, we believe Westbrook will try to seek shelter with a family member -- perhaps his sister, Starla Westbrook."
Starla, according to the district attorney's office, lives in Sebring, Florida, and uses the alias "Sharlena Peters" on Facebook and YouTube. They say she refuses to cooperate with investigators.
Pinkston said that Daphne's mother was struggling after not speaking with her daughter for so long. He said that John owns a 1970s orange Volkswagen Beetle but was last spotted driving an older-model pickup truck in Albuquerque, though the plate numbers could not be identified.
"We also believe he may have altered his appearance and Daphne's, including using hair dye and false teeth."
Who to contact if you see John, Daphne or her dogs:
If you see John, Daphne or her two dogs, call the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-824-3463 or 911. You can also send tips to FindingDaphne@hcdatn.org.
Denver7's Jon Ewing and WFTS' Veronica Beltran contributed to this report.