Sex offender seen with missing Hawkins County girl convicted of aggravated child molestation

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(Georgia Sex Offendor Registry)

SURGOINSVILLE (WATE/WKPT) – Police said a man believed to be with a 14-year-old girl has a lengthy criminal history that includes nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert for Hayleigh Wilson, 14, Wednesday. According to Police Chief James Hammonds, Wilson voluntarily left her mother and step father’s home in Surgoinsville on Monday night. He says Wilson was last confirmed to be seen with Benjamin Joseph Shook, 41, at a Walmart in Marion, North Carolina, early Tuesday morning.

Previous story: AMBER alert issued for Hawkins County girl last seen with sex offender

“She left some notes for some family members that she was just going to get out, and try to spread her wings,” Hammonds told WKPT.  “Mr. Shook turns out to be a wanted subject out of Georgia, on multiple sex charges.”

The police chief said Shook was incarcerated from 2004 to 2014, after being convicted on 9 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in Georgia. However, after he was released from prison, he says Shook failed to register as a sex offender. Instead, he fled to Tennessee, and resided in a camper on the property of a Morristown resident.

Shook was found guilty of child molestation that occurred on June 2004 in Habersham County, Georgia and aggravated child molestation for an incident in May 2002 in Stephens County, Georgia. He was also incarcerated in 1992.

Hammonds suspects 14-year-old Wilson met Shook online. “She probably thought he was just an average guy. She probably knew his age, he was a little bit older. But she probably didn’t know his extensive background,” said Hammonds.

Several law enforcement agencies, including the TBI, the FBI, and US Marshals, are now actively searching for the whereabouts of the Surgoinsville Middle School honor student. Wilson and Shook are believed to be traveling in a 2004, maroon, Ford Explorer Sport Trac with TN license plates.

Anyone with information on Hayleigh Wilson or Ben Shook is asked to contact the Surgionsville Police Department at 423-272-7121 or call 1800-TBI-FIND.

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