The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office arrested 27-year-old Nathan Salas for child concealment. They say an online relationship with the teen led Salas to pick up the girl on the East Coast and fly with her to Sacramento, where deputies were waiting.
Authorities in Connecticut reached out the Merced County Sheriff's Department with information about a flight the two may have boarded to California. Deputies in Merced then reached out to the Sacramento airport, leading Sacramento County deputies to arrest Salas at the airport.
The suspect was taken into custody just after getting off his inbound flight.
"At that exact moment, it hit home that no matter how good of intentions I had, this was the biggest mistake I had ever made in my entire life," Salas said from jail.
Salas told KXTV-TV he was trying to rescue the girl from a verbally abusive and neglectful home. Salas says he's a custodian at a facility in Yosemite National Park. He had planned to help the 14-year-old find work and a place to stay in the park.
"Just to help her start over," Salas said. "Nothing sexual, nothing relationship... just a friend I wanted to get out of a situation."
He says the girl was nervous about the trip they had planned together. And as they flew cross-country he became nervous, too.
"At every single airport I got to, I got more and more scared that what I was doing what completely and utterly wrong," Salas said.
Salas says he met the girl on the Wiccan-based website Spellsofmagic.com.
In a news release, Sacramento County investigators said detectives found online messages between the victim and Salas. They say Salas' cell phone number led the investigation to Merced County.
Salas said he told the girl to leave a note to her parents, but investigators say she left a suicide note.
From behind the plate glass at the Sacramento County Main Jail, Salas offered an apology to his and the girl's family. "For everybody watching this, whether they think I'm a liar or not, I know I was wrong," he said.
Salas' father told KFSN-TV over the phone he has not spoken with his son about the allegations. He says he plans to after Salas appears before a Sacramento judge Thursday.
Now it's up to Hamden police in Connecticut to figure out when and how they will get the 14-year-old girl back to her family.