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SURGOINSVILLE — A 12-year-old Surgoinsville girl who allegedly stole her grandmother’s Jeep and took a road trip to Myrtle Beach with two teenage cousins reportedly made the statement that she “just needed a break.”

The grandmother discovered the child was missing, along with her 2017 Jeep Patriot, around 6:30 a.m. Monday, although Surgoinsville Police Department Chief James Hammonds told the Times News on Tuesday he believes the granddaughter stole the Jeep sometime around midnight.

“I got the granddaughter’s phone number and pinged her phone, and around 9:30 a.m. it showed that they were near the Tanger Outlet in Myrtle Beach,” Hammonds said.

“As I’m doing this, two other reports come in of missing kids from the county, and we determined that those girls were all together. We sent Myrtle Beach Police Department by that area where her phone pinged, and they were able to locate the vehicle and the kids.”

Hammonds said he believes the cousins were 15 and 16 years of age. Their parents went to Myrtle Beach on Monday and brought them back home.

There was no information available about whether the cousins will face any county charges in Juvenile Court, but Hammonds said he won’t be charging the cousins in connection with the Jeep theft.

The 12-year-old spent Monday night in custody in Myrtle Beach and was being returned Tuesday by the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office.

Hammonds said he will be citing her into Hawkins County Juvenile Court for theft over $10,000.

“The 12-year-old actually took the vehicle from here (at her grandmother’s home),” Hammonds noted. “I don’t know yet who actually drove to the beach. We got the report at 6:30 a.m., and we had them in custody by 9:30 a.m.”

Hammonds added, “I’m assuming they probably left around midnight to 1 a.m., so they didn’t have much free time at Myrtle Beach.

“It was a short beach trip. She told her grandmother she just needed a break.”

This is the second time in less than a month that the 12-year-old has run away, but the first time Hammonds caught her walking before she got out of town.

“This time she definitely put some distance between us, and she thought she had it made,” he added.

“But with technology, they don’t think about turning that cell phone off because we can ping them and be right near where they’re at.”

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