Hayleigh Wilson’s father speaks for first time since amber alert cancelled


HAWKINS COUNTY, TN (WJHL)  – Eddie Wilson says for the first time in 16 days he has slept through the night knowing his daughter is now safe.

We sat down with the father of 14-year-old Hayleigh Wilson just one day after the amber alert was cancelled.

For more than two weeks federal, state, and local agencies worked around the clock to bring Hayleigh home.

On June 22nd the Hawkins County teen ran away with convicted sex offender Benjamin Shook.

Investigators say the two met on social media and lived on the land for the 16 days they were on the run.

In the last week of the investigation, the search was narrowed down to Smyth County in Southwest Virginia.

Early Tuesday morning, the two were located in the Atkins, Virginia.

But just one day after authorities found Hayleigh, she was facing charges of her own.

Wednesday morning Hayleigh Wilson was arraigned on charges of a runaway and theft over a thousand dollars in a Hawkins County juvenile courtroom.

We sat down with Hayleigh’s father after the hearing, and even with the charges he says they are just looking forward to getting Hayleigh, and the family the help they need.

“You know the main thing is we’ve got our child back,” said Eddie Wilson.

For the past 16 days, Eddie Wilson says he has dealt with sleepless nights, and has been in a constant state of worry, wondering where his baby girl had gone.

“You are in that nightmare that you couldn’t wake up from, and something was after you and you were wanting to wake up to get away from it,” said Wilson.

Just over 24 hours ago that nightmare was finally over, as authorities were able to locate his daughter, Hayleigh Wilson, and convicted sex offender, Benjamin Shook.

“I thank all the people in Smyth County, all the people in Grayson County, the people in Wythe county,” said Wilson.

Now that Hayleigh is home its not just her family she has to answer to.

Surgoinsville Police Chief, James Hammonds, tells us Wilson was arraigned in juvenile court Tuesday morning.

“Its a runaway status and theft over a thousand,” said Hammonds.

He explained the charges were filed because Hayleigh left home without permission, and is alleged to have taken her step fathers truck when she went with Shook, which was recovered during the investigation.

“The purpose for doing this, me myself, would probably be making more kids aware of kids taking off and meeting people on the internet,” said Hammonds.

Chief Hammonds says this is something he explained to Hayleigh in person.

“We sat down, and I kind of told her what the last 16 days were like for myself, and the emotions that I dealt with, with her parents,” said Hammonds.

It seems that emotion continued as Eddie described being reunited with his daughter.

“She was hollering and screaming daddy I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I love you, I promise you this will never happen again,” said Wilson.

He says he knows this is just the beginning of a long journey toward healing for his family.

While Eddie Wilson could not tell us all of the changes that are in store for their future, he did say they are seeking counseling for Hayleigh and the entire family.Copyright 2015 WJHL.  All rights reserved.

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