Missing poster for Kayleigh Green, 15, who disappeared Oct. 2 from the Northwest Side of Chicago, Illinois. (Image: Courtesy of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

A 15-year-old walked out of her family’s Chicago home in the middle of the night two weeks ago. Kayleigh Green left behind her cellphone charger and case, and four important medications. What she took with her were a history of depression and PTSD from childhood abuse—and also likely a big pink and white stuffed animal.

Green, a sophomore at Taft High School who plays on the school’s rugby team and reportedly identifies as male, was likely lured away by an online sexual predator—what appears to be an all-too-common phenomenon of children trusting people they have never met outside cyberspace.

Two weeks into the search, Green is now considered to be in “critical” danger by investigators. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the family are now trying to reach across the nation along those same channels to find her and bring her home.

Investigators say Green likely took a large pink and white dog stuffed animal (left) and navy blue carry bag (right) when leaving in the middle of the night on Oct. 2. (Photos: Courtesy of the NCMEC)

Her parents told a local TV affiliate they fear their child is a victim of online sex trafficking. If true, that would make Green one of thousands victimized each year by predators who reach out through cyberspace, virtually convincing children to run away from their homes.

Indeed, the teen left a note indicating she may have traveled to New York City.

NCMEC has assisted the Chicago Police Department with locating Green. Last year, NCMEC fielded 18,500 such cases of endangered runaways. Approximate one in six—about 3,000—were victims of child sex trafficking. However, the vast majority—86 percent—were in the care of social services at the times they disappeared.

Green lives with her parents in the historic Portage Park neighborhood of northwest Chicago. But she has a history of depression and anxiety and PTSD, according to Mark Czworniak, a NCMEC investigator.

Green did not have many friends in high school. The parents also told various media outlets that their missing child’s main social interactions came from online connections.

“I know sometimes that’s a positive thing,” said the mother, Anna Green. “In this case, it was not. It was not a positive thing.” 

Green is white with light complexion and brown eyes, stands at 5-foot-7 and weighs about 165 lbs. Green has short blond hair but was known to change its color frequently. (Photo: Courtesy of the NCMEC)

Although specifics about how Green may have been lured away are not available, many of the online predator cases have a distinctive pattern. For instance, a 2008 study by researchers at the University of New Hampshire found that most such predatory interactions “fit a model of statutory rape-adult offenders (…) who openly seduce underage teenagers.” Teens at especial risk for this are those with histories of trauma. (Indeed, the phenomenon has grown over the last decade to the point that the FBI has an annual law enforcement action to rescue underage victims of sex trafficking; Operation Cross County’s 11th iteration was announced this morning.)

“Someone she met online must have gained her confidence and trust and promised her a better life,” said Czworniak. “It is a pattern that police and NECMEC see over and over again.”

Green is white, with a light complexion and brown eyes. She had short blond hair at the time of her disappearance—though she has been known to change its color frequently, according to reports. She stands 5-foot-7 and weighs about 165 pounds.

She has distinctive scars on her arms, hands and thighs, they added.

Czworniak, now of NCMEC but a retired Chicago homicide detective, said the city police do the best they can investigating such cases—but the load of cases can be overwhelming. That’s why the assistance is needed from NCMEC, other law enforcement—and the public.

“The statistics for missing people in Chicago: on average 25,000 are reported each year—however, 99 percent will return on their own with any given year. The genuinely missing kids and adults get lost in this mess,” said Czworniak. “These 25,000 cases are handled by as little as 50 detectives citywide.”

“I’m hoping she’ll see how much we love her,” said the tearful mother. 

Anyone with information about Kayleigh Green or her whereabouts is asked to call NCMEC at 1(800)THE-LOST.