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By ANNETTE HARVISON
A 21-year-old Hattiesburg man is out on bond after being charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor in the Christmas disappearance of a Greene County teen.
Tyler Wood of Hattiesburg had been considered missing with 16-year-old Veronica Platt since Dec. 27, when the teen’s family reported her missing. Platt reportedly left her residence in Piave to go to the Hattiesburg home of Wood’s mother, Ann Wood-Clark, for a Christmas gathering but did not return home later that night as expected.
Greene County Investigator Tommy Henderson determined the pair had gone to the home of Wood’s mother, but stayed less than half an hour at her residence.
The visit with Clark was the last time the couple was seen or heard from by family or friends. Authorities were able to track Wood’s phone usage on Dec. 27 to Pearlington, Miss., near the Mississippi-Louisiana border.
Greene County Officer Brad Warrick said the couple met online, and 20-year old Wood lied to Platt about his age. Warrick said the teen’s grandparents became suspicious about the situation and began to ask questions, perhaps prompting their disappearance.
Local law enforcement reached out to family and friends for clues to the couple’s disappearance, though few were to be found. Although the incident appeared to be a runaway situation, other scenarios were not dismissed. Officials kept searching for clues to the couple’s whereabouts and had a breakthrough in the case on the morning of Friday, Jan. 4, when Wood contacted his father through a fake Facebook account.
Officer Warrick said Wood wanted to let his father know he and Platt were safe. Wood’s father convinced him to contact local authorities about the situation. Wood contacted Warrick Friday afternoon through a computer texting application and gave him their location and situation details.
“They decided they needed to come back and do the right thing,” said Warrick. “They were in Cairo, Oklahoma.”
The couple was out of money and had a bad tire on the car, Warrick said. Wood’s father wired the couple money to repair the tire and have the funds to return home. They began traveling back to Greene County Saturday afternoon, keeping in contact with the GCSO until they returned about 6:45 a.m. Sunday morning.
Wood was booked into the Greene County jail and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. His bond was set at $2,500.
Platt was transferred to a youth detention center to await a hearing before a judge.
According to multiple published reports, Wood was formerly an elected official in Forrest County, having been elected in Nov. 2016 to the position of election commissioner when he was 18. He resigned roughly a year later, announcing his resignation was for personal reasons.
The Clarion-Ledger reported Wood’s stated in a May 2017 interview that he had left office because attempts were being made on his life because he was trying to fight corruption in Forrest County. The report indicates Wood had said he believed someone had attempted to tamper with his truck on multiple occasions. He did not report the incidents to police, but said in the interview he shared the information on social media so people would know what was going on if something happened to him.