Last May, homicide detectives Chris Boughey and Jeff Balson were in the City Council chambers for Peoria, Ariz., recipients in the police department’s annual awards ceremony, when Balson received a text message:
“Help, I am out of the country and I don’t think I am ever going to get back. What do I do?”
The message was sent from a college-age woman whose family had sent her to the Middle East under the guise of visiting relatives. But they were worried that her Westernized behavior had dishonored them, and their actual aim was to force her into a marriage without her consent.
“As soon as she landed, her mom took her passport and documentation and said, ‘Forget everything you have ever known about America, because you are never going back,’” said Balson, who would not reveal the woman’s country of origin or name to protect her identity.
According to Balson, 39, the girl did nothing shameful. One of her friends had tagged her in a group photo on Facebook. A family member abroad saw it and alerted her parents. He said the photo was “not risqué” and there was “no skin showing.” But there were boys, and the photo looked as though it had been taken in a bar or club.
While she was abroad, she and Balson sent secret messages using a secure messaging app. He and Boughey were planning her escape.