Authorities in Tennessee are appealing to the public for help in tracking down a local father who has been accused of kidnapping his 17-year-old daughter and eluding the police for more than a year by relying on his advanced information technology skills, aliases and disguises.
Daphne Westbrook disappeared on October 6, 2019, along with her dogs, Fern and Strawberry, from Chattanooga after failing to return home from a weekend visit with her dad, John Westbrook.
According to the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office in Tennessee, Westbrook, 41, abducted his daughter and traveled with her out West. He has since been indicted and charged with aggravated kidnapping.
Tennessee IT expert John Westbrook, 41 (left), is accused of kidnapping his 17-year-old daughter, Daphne (right), and holding her captive for more than a year
Daphne, pictured above with her dog Strawberry, vanished in October 2019, after failing to return from a weekend with her father
Daphne is believed to be accompanied by her two dogs, including Fern (pictured)
‘Daphne is being held against her will, unable to communicate with the outside world,’ said a statement from the DA’s office. ‘Our investigation shows she is endangered both physically and mentally.’
District Attorney Neal Pinkston told WDEF that Westbrook has purchased hair dye and false teeth, purportedly to alter his and Daphne’s appearances, and it is believed that he has been plying his daughter with drugs and alcohol in order to keep her under his control.
Daphne was last sighted in the Denver, Colorado, area in November 2020.
Westbrook, an IT specialist, is known to be shopping at stores in Santa Fe, New Mexico (pictured)
Authorities say Westbrook has been plying Daphne with drugs and alcohol to keep her under his control. Her appearance may have been altered with hair dye and false teeth
Last month, Daphne’s Bible, which she got as a gift from her grandparents for her 16th birthday, was found in a trash can outside a Trader Joe’s on West Cordova Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Also in February, Westbrook spent several weeks in the Pueblo, Colorado, area.
The father and daughter also have ties to the Auburn, Washington, area, where Westbrook’s sister lives, reported The News Tribune. The woman is said to be in regular communication with her brother and has been refusing cooperate with the investigation, or to speak to the US Marshals Service.
According to the authorities, Westbrook is an IT expert specializing in security, blockchain technology, and Bitcoin.
‘He is communicating in a way that’s almost impossible to trace, which makes it extremely difficult for investigators to generate significant leads in this case,’ stated the DA. ‘We know he is earning money contracting with small businesses to do computer security work.
Daphne’s mother, Rhona Curtsinger (pictured together left and right) last saw the girl on October 4, 2019. The mother got a message from Daphne on October 6, asking if it was OK for her to get home late
Pinkston said that Westbrook has used as many as 20 different email addresses and 10 aliases.
Daphne’s mother, Rhona Curtsinger, told WRCB-TV the last time she saw her daughter on October 4, 2019, before she left to spend the weekend with her father at his home on Florida Avenue in Chattanooga.
Two days later, Curtsinger said she received a message from Daphne, asking her for permission to return home a couple of hours late so that she could walk her dog with a friend. The girl never made it back.
The mother said that prior to her disappearance, Daphne was happy and doing well in school. She described the teen as fun and inquisitive.
‘The only thing that we knew was that she was sad because her dad was moving away to another state,’ Curtsinger said.
Westbrook has been indicted and charged with aggravated kidnapping
Daphne and her father have been tied to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Pueblo, Colorado and Auburn, Washington, where the man’s sister lives
The district attorney said that solving abduction cases involving a parent could be difficult because the suspect and victim may appear like a normal family to onlookers.
‘People think that they look happy and healthy. That there is nothing unusual going on,’ Pinkston said. ‘But our investigation reveals that she is generally kept under the influence of drugs and alcohol. She’s not free to socially interact with anyone except her father. He is in control of her. She is not free to leave.’
Daphne’s mother said she is devastated that her daughter was taken away from everything and everyone she’s ever known, but she remains hopeful that the teen will be found.
According to investigators, Westbrook occasionally take Daphne to ride horses, and they are appealing to the equestrian community in New Mexico to be on the lookout for them.
Daphne is described as 5-foot-3 and weighing 110lbs, with light brown hair and brown eyes.
Westbrook is described as 6-foot-4 and 200lbs, with brown hair and blue eyes.
Anyone with information on the pair’s whereabouts is being asked to contact the Hamilton County DA’s Office at 1-423-209-7415.