NEW SHARON, Maine — Authorities in Franklin County are seeking the public’s help in finding a missing Twin Cities teenager and the 30-year-old man who they say refuses to return her to her family.
Fifteen-year-old Opal Swearingen was reported missing by her New Sharon foster parents on the morning of June 12. She is believed to be traveling with Charles Fontenot, a 30-year-old Lewiston man authorities later discovered she was having a sexual relationship with, Franklin County authorities said.
Fontenot is being sought by authorities on a felony warrant charging him with sexual abuse of a minor and criminal restraint. The legal age of consent in Maine is 16.
A search of the Sun Journal archives shows Fontenot has had several run-ins with authorities over the years, including charges ranging from disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and theft to operating under the influence, operating after suspension, reckless conduct and driving to endanger.
Franklin County Detective David St. Laurent said Fontenot has had limited contact with family members over the last two weeks, but has thus far refused to return Swearingen to her home.
“He’s made the statement that ‘I can’t go to prison,’” St. Laurent said. “They’ve been seen around the Lewiston area, but they haven’t been picked up yet.”
Swearingen has family ties in the Lewiston-Auburn area where she lived before she and one of her siblings were placed with the state-recognized foster home in Franklin County.
According to St. Laurent, Swearingen met Fontenot while attending high school with his 17-year-old daughter and started a relationship with him shortly after.
St. Laurent said investigators learned in recent weeks that Fontenot, who has three other children, continued seeing Swearingen after she moved to Franklin County and would travel there regularly to see her at night.
According to St. Laurent, an Amber Alert was not issued for Swearingen due to her age and the fact she willingly left the home with Fontenot, even leaving a note with her sibling detailing her plan.
St. Laurent said authorities left messages for both Swearingen and Fontenot on their cellphones, reached out to them via Facebook and remain in contact with family members on both sides in hopes of getting them to return home.
St. Laurent said Fontenot has been known to work traveling carnivals and that authorities contacted local companies to alert them to the situation. State and local authorities throughout Maine have been made aware of the situation, as well as Border Patrol.
Additionally, Fontenot has ties to Massachusetts, Texas and Mexico. If authorities learn the two have left the state, then St. Laurent said the FBI will be alerted.
The two were last seen in Lewiston on June 12 in a Chevrolet pickup 1500 with Maine registration number 1068-SW.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at 207-778-9891.