Pair convicted for missing Belhaven teen located in Virginia

Published 11:40 am Thursday, June 9, 2022

From District Attorney Seth Edwards

Washington, NC — District Attorney Seth Edwards announced today the convictions of two individuals from Virginia who transported a 15-year-old female from her home town of Belhaven and to Williamsburg, Virginia, this past January, without the consent of her parents. FBI agents ultimately located the teenager in a hotel and returned her to her parents. 

According to Edwards, the girl’s parents reported her missing on the morning of Jan. 15, 2022. Law enforcement officials tracked the teenager’s online activity to a hotel in Williamsburg, and with the assistance of hotel officials, were able to pinpoint the building in which they believed the girl to be located. Officers knocked on hotel doors until they located the young girl in the room along with both defendants. Officers determined that the defendants met the minor female in an online chat. 

Jacob Sanders pled guilty in Beaufort County Superior Court to Felonious Restraint, and Helena Bernache pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Felonious Restraint. According to Edwards, the crux of this offense involves the age of the young girl and the fact this was done without the consent of her parents. Edwards indicated that the young girl has alleged that sexual offenses occurred at the hotel in Virginia. Under North Carolina law, Sanders is required to register as a sex offender. Both defendants received probationary sentences.