SULPHUR, La. (KXAN) — Hundreds of miles away in Sulphur, Louisiana, a father is relieved knowing his daughter Lili Griffith is alive.
Lili, 14, and her sister Lulu Bandera-Margret, 7, were found Wednesday night after a couple spotted the car driven by the man believed to have abducted them, Terry Miles.
“I was just overwhelmed, I couldn’t believe it,” said Lili’s father Greg Griffith, when he found out the girls were safe.
Police had been looking for the girls and Miles since Sunday when they found the girls’ mother dead in their Round Rock duplex — Miles, 44, was a roommate, and police are calling him a person of interest in her homicide.
Griffith didn’t know how this kidnapping would end. He says Miles acted inappropriately with Lili when he used to live next door. He said one time Lili stayed the night in Miles’ trailer, but Miles said she just fell asleep. “He knew my daughter for one day or something like that and then they’re hugging,” explains Griffith.
He believes Miles was stalking his daughter, which is how he ended up living with her, her mother and half-sister at their Round Rock duplex.
A text message Griffith had may indicate one reason why Miles is only considered a person of interest at this time. Griffith says the message is from Miles to Miles’ mother, who is a friend of Griffith. “It was really odd, saying that he came home to a really bad situation,” said Griffith of the text message.
The message also implicates the boyfriend of Tonya Bates — the girl’s mother — but doesn’t identify that person. Federal authorities confirm Miles’ mother received a text from one of the girls’ phones Saturday, Dec. 30, but they have not confirmed it is the specific message Griffith has a photo of.
Police tracked the phone to a wooded area next to a Round Rock Walmart. Surveillance video from the store showed Miles buying camping items, including a tent, tarps and a children’s sleeping bag. Authorities in Colorado say someone reported seeing the car Miles was driving on campgrounds in the state.
Griffith knows Miles’ plan could’ve ended in disaster. “Because he always said, ‘I have nothing to lose, this will be the third strike if I screw up again and that I have nothing to lose, I’ll take somebody out with me,'” said Griffith.
Griffith says he hopes to get custody of Lili and Lulu, but authorities have not said where the girls will go. Child Protective Services says their agency will work to place them with family or family friends.