NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Pennsylvania State Police say a teen who was missing from North Tonawanda was located Tuesday morning.
The 17-year-old girl, who we are not naming at this time, was abducted near 908 Niagara Falls Blvd. in North Tonawanda, according to police in the city. They say it happened on Monday night around 7 p.m.
Shortly after they started investigating this, police say “it became evident that [the girl] did get into a car owned by Michael Mesko, whom she had a full stay away order of protection against.”
Police believed the girl may have been in “imminent danger of serious harm and/or death.”
Officials suspected that Mesko may have taken the girl out of state, and the next morning, both were found in Pennsylvania.
Shortly after 8:30 a.m., FBI agents were notified that the suspect vehicle was seen at a rest stop off of Route 80 in Harrisville. State police then quickly located both Mesko and the teen.
Mesko was taken into custody, and both he and the teen were taken to a local hospital for observation. Medically, it’s not clear what kind of condition either person is in.
Fifty-year-old Mesko was arrested February 4 on charges of second-degree rape.
He spent six days in Niagara County Jail on bail but last Wednesday, North Tonawanda Judge Sean Nickerson released him on his own recognizance because a preliminary hearing was waived.
This is not an Erie County case, but Erie County DA John Flynn says one of the loopholes in bail reform is the ability for even those awaiting trial on rape to be released.
“The majority of violent felonies, the judge now has options which also include that third form of bail which makes it easier for people to get out,” Flynn said.
State charges will be filed now in addition to the rape charges filed against him just 12 days ago.
The Niagara County District Attorney’s Office released a statement concerning the details of Mesko’s release from the county jail:
“Michael Mesko was charged on February 4th with the crimes of Rape in the Second Degree and Criminal Sexual Act in the Second Degree. When he was arraigned we asked for $10,000 cash bail. The Court set bail at $1,000. Faced with the inevitable release of the defendant given the bail amount my office determined not to subject our witnesses to testimony and cross-examination at a preliminary hearing. This resulted in the defendant’s release on February 10th.
The function of a preliminary hearing is for the court to determine whether there is enough evidence to continue to hold a defendant in custody on bail. My office often has to weigh the cost of running the hearing, which is subjecting witnesses to testimony and cross-examination that can be quite uncomfortable, against the benefit of continuing the bail if the hearing is successful. In this case, my office determined that given the bail amount, and the very high likelihood that the defendant would be able to post that bail in short order, it would not make sense to subject our witnesses to the preliminary hearing. Simply stated, we did not want to have to subject our witnesses to uncomfortable testimony, only to have the defendant get out by posting $1,000 a day or two later. These decisions are made on a regular basis by DA’s Offices, and it is not unusual for a defendant to be released rather than run a preliminary hearing, particularly when the bail amount involved is low.”