Faribault's police chief, Dan Collins, says that 16-year-old Paige Brewer needs to step forward and speak with authorities about her relationship with 44-year-old Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey.
That relationship has spawned a massive comment war on the City Pages Web site.
The Faribault High School student says she walked out on an abusive relationship with her mother in Mound and was living with her grandmother in Faribault before meeting up with Sharkey last Friday at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport and going into hiding. She's listed as an endangered runaway through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Sharkey, who says he's running for governor in Minnesota, has a history of controversial relationships with young women and run ins with the law. He raised a furor when he proposed marriage to Brewer via a YouTube video -- and she later accepted without ever having met the man. The two first made contact via an online meet-up space in January, and Sharkey says he's trying to protect Brewer from her mother. Both deny strongly that she has been abducted or is being held against her will.
"She needs to speak with us face to face" so that detectives can begin to work on whether claims Brewer has made about her mother are true, and, if they are, then connect her with social workers, Collins said. Until then, "our hands are tied. We're limited as to what we can do."
As to her relationship with Sharkey, who is decades older than her, Collins said that law enforcement options are limited unless or until there's sufficient probable cause to suspect that Sharkey has had sex with the girl, or that he's keeping the girl from her mother and thus violating the mother's parental rights.
Collins said he had followed the comments under the City Pages stories, some of which Brewer said she has posted herself in her own defense, saying she was not a runaway and was perfectly happy to be with Sharkey. But he said police have no way of verifying whether anything said there is true, and whether the commenter claiming to be Brewer is, in fact, Brewer.
A Faribault police detective used the comment section to try and contact Brewer, but Brewer dismissed that request in an interview, and in a separate comment.
"She hasn't reported anything to us," Collins said, urging her to come forward. " What's holding her up? Why the charades?"
"This needs to end before it gets worse," he said.