KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The suspect in the disappearance of a Knox County girl was a registered sex offender and had offenses dating back to the 2000s, according to national and state records.
Earlier this week, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office released that an 11-year-old girl went missing from a home in Halls, and on Thursday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Endangered Child Alert.
Friday morning, the Tennessee Bureau of Information shared that the girl was found safe in Hamilton County near the Georgia state line, and the man suspected to be involved in her disappearance, Edward Dale Ahrens, 38, of Ringgold, Georgia, was killed during a confrontation with law enforcement.
Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said this was a case of “a young child being lured by a sexual predator through social media that could have ended a young girl’s life.”
WATE has discovered more information about the suspect, specifically that he was a registered sex offender.
According to the National Sex Offender Public Website, Ahrens is listed in both the Tennessee and Georgia sex offender registries. His listing in the Tennessee registry is listed as inactive because he moved to another state, however, the Georgia Sex Offender Registry said his residence was last verified on January 5, 2024.
The Georgia Department of Corrections website said Ahrens was incarcerated from 2004 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2018.
The Department of Corrections lists nine charges against Ahrens of sexual exploitation of a child, eight charges of aggravated assault and four charges of obstruction of a law enforcement officer between both court cases.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections records, in 2003 he served 10 years of probation for eight counts of aggravated assault and four counts of obstruction of justice. Five years later, he was arrested for possession of child pornography and was charged with nine counts of sexual exploitation of children and served a 10 year sentence from 2008-2018.
Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk told WTVC that this was a case of a “young child being lured by a sexual predator through social media that could have ended a young girl’s life”
When law enforcement officers from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Catoosa County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office located Ahrens traveling with the missing girl on I-75 south in Hamilton County, TN, Ahrens reportedly refused to comply with officers commands to surrender and ran over at least three detectives with the vehicle he was driving, according to the TBI and KCSO. The TBI reported that at least four officers fired their weapons into the vehicle, striking Ahrens who later died at a nearby hospital.
The child and officers were not injured, the TBI added.
Where officers located Ahrens was very close to his home. According to the registries, Ahrens’s primary residence was a home on Hilltop Road, approximately five miles from where officers found Ahrens with the girl.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with new information.