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Missing Center Line teen found with sex offender

Holly Fournier, and Leonard N. Fleming

Farmington Hills — A 15-year-old Center Line girl who disappeared two days ago was found Monday in Tennessee and a 36-year-old sex offender she was with was arrested, authorities said.

Farmington Hills police said Timothy Allen Fulgenzi was found at a Subway restaurant in Lebanon, Tennessee, after initially calling police in Michigan to tell them he wasn’t with Shelby Grech.

“We received a call from Mr. Fulgenzi. Apparently he had learned maybe via social media that the police were looking for him so he contacted our detective who was in charge of the case,” said Matt Koehn, the assistant chief of police in Farmington Hills. “The detective was able to learn his location and we sent the Lebanon Police Department to where he was located where he was arrested.”

Koehn said it remains a mystery “what they were doing together” and police haven’t had an opportunity to interview Grech. Fulgenzi told police that they had “split up back on Saturday” when she went missing and that he was by himself but when the “Lebanon, Tennessee, police got there, obviously she was with him.”

Police confirmed that Fulgenzi is the boyfriend of Grech’s biological mother, an account given by the girl’s adoptive mother. Police are holding him for violating the sex offender registry.

Koehn said that Fulgenzi and Grech have relatives in Tennessee. Lebanon is about 520 miles from Detroit.

Grech and Fulgenzi were last seen in Farmington Hills around 8 p.m. Saturday outside the Knights Inn near Grand River and 10 Mile, police said.

Teresa Texas, the girl’s biological great aunt and adoptive mother since she was 5 months old, said news that Grech was found safe and unharmed was “absolute, ultimate relief.”

“I wouldn’t wish this on any parent,” Texas said. “The relief that my husband, Michael, and I felt after learning she was found and that she was safe is indescribable. And we just can’t wait to go get her.”

Texas said she and her husband will drive to Tennessee on Tuesday to bring home Grech, who they say is still being interviewed by police and is in their custody.

Texas said Grech said the family believed that he had her “brainwashed.”

“If this man doesn’t go behind bars for the rest of his life, there is something seriously wrong with our judicial system,” Texas said.

Texas said she tried to prevent her daughter from seeing Fulgenzi after learning the girl had an “infatuation” with him a few months ago. The situation escalated Saturday when she discovered Grech had plans to run away and marry Fulgenzi.

The pair fled after Fulgenzi heard police were on their way to arrest him, Texas said.

“Whether my daughter ran on her own accord or not, I don’t know,” Texas said. “I’m assuming she did, but her phone was left behind and she’s never without her phone.”

Fulgenzi was convicted in 2001 of fourth-degree sex offense in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The offense involved an underage girl, Texas said.

Texas said she and Grech were close until recently.

“She’s been my end-all and be-all since I got her,” Texas said. “It’s only been within the last year that I’ve noticed a big distance, and especially within the last six to eight months.”

hfournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier