A 14-year-old girl who went missing from a Readfield foster home in late February has been found safe in Georgia, but police say that a 35-year-old man who took the teenager there killed himself on Tuesday morning and had been facing a criminal charge.

That man, Robert Gooden, is from Georgia and had met the girl online, Sgt. Blaine Bronson of the Maine State Police said Tuesday.

Working with Georgia authorities, Maine State Police were preparing to charge Gooden with criminal restraint, a class D misdemeanor, Bronson said. But he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Tuesday.

Heavenlee Benjamin

Police have been searching for the girl, Heavenlee Benjamin, for more than a week. She was reported missing after last being seen on Feb. 27.

Police think that Benjamin left her foster home on her own accord. She was found Tuesday morning in a home in Smyrna, a small city outside Atlanta.

Bronson declined to provide much information about how Benjamin was brought to Georgia and said police continue to investigate whether other people were involved.


But he did say that Gooden posed a threat to the girl.

“We don’t know all the details of her time there with him,” Bronson said. “I can’t comment too much. But these situations, in general, when you have a predator preying on young kids, they are always dangerous and volatile.”

Georgia officials are now working the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to bring Benjamin back to Maine, Bronson said.

Police first learned that Benjamin may have been in Smyrna late last week, according to Bronson. They were preparing to charge Gooden with criminal restraint, a misdemeanor in which someone knowingly entices a minor away from the custody of her guardians.

This story will be updated.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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