Three adults are facing charges, authorities said, for concealing the location of a missing New Jersey girl while police were looking for her.
Ashley Combs, 17, a student at Toms River High School North in Ocean County, was found safe with her biological father, Brian Combs, on Wednesday. Combs’ adoptive parents reported her missing Friday when she did not return home from school.
In a statement, Jillian Messina, a Toms River Police Department spokeswoman, said police filed charges against Brian Combs (obstruction and interference with custody), Mechelle Combs (obstruction), and Linda Roszel (obstruction and interference with custody). Brian Combs was lodged in the Ocean County Jail in Toms River, and Mechelle Combs and Rozel were released on a summons.
As their investigation continues, authorities said additional charges could be filed.
Officers and detectives determined early on “that it was highly likely that Combs was not in danger and was more than likely staying with family or friends in the area willingly,” according to Messina.
Combs was moved between different homes “in an effort to conceal her location while law enforcement was actively trying to locate her,” Messina said.
Authorities contacted the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency after investigators learned that were concerns about the teen’s home environment.
Reached via phone, Melissa Burt, a casework supervisor at the department, declined to comment.
Attorney Jef Henninger, retained by Combs’ adoptive parents during the investigation, issued a statement Thursday.
“Contrary to the (police department) press release however, my clients continue to believe that Ashley was in danger,” Henninger said. “Without getting into specifics, the birth parents’ parental rights were terminated for a reason.”
Henninger also disputed statements about Combs’ home environment.
“My clients fully expected that the birth parents would make false accusations against them in order to justify their actions. These false accusations have been made before,” the attorney said. “Ashley was placed with [the adoptive parents] because they could provide her with a loving home. They fully expect that these false accusations will be unfounded and the investigation will be closed quickly.”