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The Dilbert Family can be heard singing at churches across the county as Chosen Generation Singing Group. Pictured left to right: Brithney, Jimmy R., Maria V., Jimmy H., Mariah, Maria E., Sarah, and Whitney. Not pictured are the couple’s youngest girls, Samantha and Hannah.

Missing Teen Returned: Parents Seek to Increase Awareness of Social Media and Texting Apps

BY MELANIE WADE –

A Mena family faced a harrowing ordeal last week when their 15-year old daughter went missing on Monday, September 4, 2017, but fortunately was found quickly, and returned home on the night of Wednesday, September 6. The parents of the girl are giving God the glory for her quick return and have already held a praise concert for that very reason.

The reports first came in on Tuesday, September 5, that a 15-year old girl, Brithney Marie Dilbert, was missing and had last been seen by her mother around 11:30 p.m. on Monday night. Brithney’s clothing that she had been wearing were on the floor of her residence but she could not be located. Her parents contacted law enforcement who quickly began attempts to locate her.

Concern grew when initial reports stated that a friend with whom Brithney attends school reported that Brithney had been using a texting app and talking to an unknown male who lives out of state. Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer and his department worked diligently to find her.

Brithney’s parents were unaware that she was ‘texting’ anyone. Her father, Jimmy, explained that the phone Brithney had been using had no service and can only be used if wi-fi is available. They had no idea that texting apps can be downloaded and used to communicate, much less that their daughter was using one. Maria, Brithney’s mother, said that she sometimes asks her daughter if she has a boyfriend and other normal ‘mom’ questions. “When she answered no, I would believe her. You should hear her sing, people have said her whole life that she is anointed.” Because of Brithney’s sweet disposition, the family was blindsided to learn of her activities and hopes their story makes others aware of the dangers, even in the quiet town of Mena, and that if it weren’t for the prayers of so many in their time of need, the outcome might have been much different. Instead, Brithney was located on Wednesday in Fort Smith.

“We believe the local radio played a big part because people were listening and they would hear and pray. Also, her friends heard and it made them want to come forward to tell what they knew,” Jimmy explained. Maria said because of the story posted by the Pulse on social media, their family in Honduras and all around the United States knew and were praying before they even had a chance to call them. Once found, Sheriff Sawyer made the trip to Fort Smith to retrieve Brithney and return her home.

Jimmy and Maria Dilbert and their family of eight children form Chosen Generation Gospel Singing Group and never thought something like this could affect their family, although tragedy has struck them before. The couple is originally from Honduras, Jimmy moving to the U.S. in 1965 and Maria following in 2003. They lived in New Orleans, Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury in 2005 and they found themselves at Fort Chaffee, a National Guard Army Base, just outside Fort Smith, Arkansas, after their home flooded.

There they would stay for a while until they were moved to Camp High Point, the Girl Scout Camp that sits east of Mena. Jimmy went back to their New Orleans home 64 days after Katrina had struck and it was still sitting in two feet of water at that time. While at Camp High Point they were offered a home in Mena and made the decision to become residents. “The people are so nice here,” said Jimmy.

It was the hospitality of the people and the close-knit, safety net kind of feel that made them sure to call Mena home. Little did they know, the outside world would slowly creep in and try to claim their precious daughter, Brithney. They feel that outside influences caused Brithney to want to leave home but are more than glad that she had a change of heart and began responding to law enforcement, who would eventually bring her home.

There are many dangers around, including those online. Too often youth are drawn in by predators and the internet makes it an all too easy task. To educate yourself on the dangers of the internet and downloaded apps by visiting www.InternetSaftey101.org. You will find statistics, guides, and much more on the dangers of social media and mobile and wireless communications, as well as safety and prevention advice.

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