Police quiz Pakistani stepfather of missing California girl, 13, who fled her home in terror 'to avoid arranged marriage

A 13-year-old schoolgirl who was missing for more than a week ran away because she was terrified by her mother and stepfather's alleged plot to send her to Pakistan for an arranged marriage, police claimed today.

Jessie Bender's parents are accused of keeping their plan secret from detectives after reporting that she had disappeared from their California home.

Their claim that Jessie was abducted by a Facebook predator was proved false after she was discovered hiding with a relative at a hotel about 30 miles from her home in Hesperia, California. Speaking to MailOnline, Hesperia Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Roxanne Walker said Jessie's stepfather, Mohammad Khan - who is from Pakistan - and her American mother, Melissa, were planning an arranged marriage for the teen.

'There was something to that effect in the works and the daughter was scared.

'She was found with the uncle who was protecting her from the parents,' said Ms Walker.

Detective Gerald Davenport was carrying out interviews today to determine whether the parents will face prosecution.

One line of inquiry is whether there was any intention to involve Jessie in an arranged marriage in Pakistan while she was under age.

Police also slammed the Bender family for 'misleading' them over Jessie's disappearance, wasting time and resources.

Mrs Walker added: ‘Bender family members misled detectives and withheld critical information and as a result delayed the investigation and recovery of their daughter Jessie Bender.'

Jessie's family had reported her missing on February 22.

They told police they feared she had been abducted by a man she met on Facebook.

It later emerged her mother Melissa admitted to police that the family were set to go on a two-month trip to Pakistan on February 23.

She confessed her daughter had been upset about having to go on the trip - but insisted 'she was fine with it', and said nothing about an arranged marriage. Instead she claimed a man her daughter met on Facebook may have been to blame for her disappearance.

In a televised appeal, Mrs Bender said: ‘He was the last person she spoke to at 1:47 in the morning.

'I was told by her school mates that this boy was an influence on her.' In another broadcast, Jessie's stepfather Mohammad Khan said he found a phone number for the mystery man in Chicago and called him.

He said: 'I just told him to please send her back because otherwise you are gonna get arrested by the cops.

'They are gonna be on you any time.'

'He told us he don't have her and he would contact us when he heard from her.

'I don't believe on him.'

The Bender family's claim sparked a kidnapping investigation involving the FBI.

The massive search also involved detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department and Chicago Police Department, and agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Fox News reported that Mrs Bender claimed during the investigation that her daughter was on medication and did not have any with her, sparking even more fears for her safety.

It is not clear what Jessie needed the medication for. Investigators pored through mobile phone records and computer data, and interviewed all of Jessie's friends.

But as they came up with nothing, their suspicions grew that Jessie's disappearance had nothing to do with a Facebook friend.

Then a relative, now known to be an uncle, led police to the Apple Valley hotel where Jessie was hiding, and the real reason for her disappearance was revealed.

It is not clear what relatives Jessie has in Pakistan although it is believed her stepfather Mr Kahn may have connections there. Jessie and her three siblings have been taken to child protective custody by county social services, and no arrests have been made.

Mrs Bender insisted to the Hesperia Star that her daughter had not fled because of the trip to Pakistan.

‘She didn’t really want to go but she was fine with it,’ she told the newspaper.

‘I really don’t think the trip played a role in her leaving. She was actually excited to go shopping for the trip.

'I even asked her friends and they said she wasn’t upset about going so I really don’t think that was the reason.’