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Missing girl found in most terrifying place

Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from Capitol Hill to the politics of preschool. A mother of two, a runner of races, and a gourmet chef wannabe, she currently lives outside of Orlando, Florida.

Teen meets guy in grocery store who turns out to be a monster

For many teen girls, flirting with and meeting guys is a thrill. However, as a terrifying story out of California shows, sometimes those they meet turn out to be monsters.

According to KTLA, it started with a flirtation in a grocery store this week. A teenage girl met 26-year-old Kaene Dean at a local grocery store in Santa Clarita. They chatted, exchanged phone numbers and made a plan to meet back at the store the next day. Then things went tragically wrong.

More: Teach your kids about stranger danger

After the girl's parents reported her missing, police began searching for her and combing through her phone records, where they saw Dean's name. A background check showed his terrifying record as a sex offender. Fortunately they were able to track him down and found the girl locked in the garage of the home where he lived with his parents. Unfortunately it was not before he allegedly assaulted her.

It's such a terrifying story, especially as the mother of a girl. I remember many, many times in my younger years when my friends and I would meet guys we didn't know, give them our phone numbers and wait for them to call. Sometimes we met up, sometimes we invited them into our homes or went to theirs. We got lucky, but as this story illustrates, not everyone does.

More: Child abduction 'prank' shows how easily kids can be lured away

While we teach our kids stranger danger from the time they're little, when it comes to flirting and the possibility of romance, sometimes those lessons get lost no matter what our age and where we might meet someone. Heads are often filled with movie-screen dreams of strangers' eyes meeting and then dancing in the street as fireworks explode.

While I'm a romantic and love the idea of romance blossoming in the produce aisle (albeit one that is between two consenting adults and not one minor and an adult, as in this case), it's also a scenario filled with risks no matter hold old a person is. There are predators out there like this — online and in line, behind us, as we pay for our groceries. We need to remind our kids and ourselves just how dangerous it is to meet up with a stranger, especially without telling anyone your whereabouts. Thank goodness for phone records in this case, because it could have ended much, much worse.

More: Scream-worthy: My most terrifying parenting moment

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