A 41-year-old Nevada man is being held on kidnapping charges in connection with the disappearance of Naomi Irion, 18, who vanished from a Walmart parking lot two weeks ago.
Troy Driver, of Fallon, Nevada, was arrested by the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office on Friday and authorities continue to search for the missing teenager.
“This is still a very active investigation, and more information will be released as it becomes available,” the department said in a release, adding that authorities had located and impounded a dark-colored truck that had been considered central to the search for Ms Irion.
The teenager’s family did not immediately return a request for comment from The Independent.
Earlier this week, her brother said he believed Ms Irion, who grew up around the world in a diplomat family, was perhaps “naive” in her new adult life as she made connections in Nevada, where she moved last year to live with him.
Ms Irion had been raised in a “sheltered environment in the diplomatic community – and she didn’t have a lot of freedom,” Mr Valley told The Independent.
She viewed a move to Nevada as “basically a launchpad” to adulthood, he said- and she quickly got a job, car and social circle, both in Fernley and on the internet. At the time of her disappearance, she was saving up for her own place. A proud member of the LGBT community and proponent of women’s rights, she’d also started online dating, Mr Valley told The Independent.
Since her disappearance earlier this month, he’d been fretting that perhaps she wasn’t prepared for all of it.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think that she has the right tools in the toolbox for this type of thing,” the Navy veteran and Apple worker said.
He described his sister as “naive and very sheltered … also very childlike.”
His sister, Tamara Cartwright, flew in from Texas after Ms. Irion disappeared, and her parents came from their home in South Africa.
“We cry a lot,” Mr Valley told The Independent. “We all cry a lot. It’s a very emotional, very fragile time. I feel very protective… I feel like I failed [to] prepare Naomi for this evil world. I’m the big brother.”
He said he hoped his “very stubborn” sister’s personality would get her through whatever order was taking place.
“I’m sure that whoever is dealing with her right now is dealing with that,” he said, half laughing.
It is unclear if there was any connection between Ms Irion and Driver, though 12 March surveillance footage had shown her interacting with a hooded figure who got into her car and drove off in the parking lot of Walmart, were she was waiting to get a shuttle to her job at Panasonic.
Mr Valley had gone to sleep early that Saturday night; Because his sister’s days began before sunrise, he thought nothing of the fact she wasn’t there on Sunday morning.
But then she didn’t return Sunday night, and neither friends nor family had heard from her. Mr Valley began calling jails and hospitals across counties, to no avail. His stepfather of him in South Africa, who has access to Ms Irion’s accounts, confirmed that her last purchase of her had been around 5am at a gas station near Walmart.
A friend of Mr Valley’s girlfriend was the one who suggested that Walmart could hold some clues, he said.
“We tracked security down at Walmart, and they were very helpful – and I’m very thankful to them for letting us barge in on them and showing us that footage,” Mr Valley said last week at a press conference.
The footage showed his little sister having an alarming interaction with a hooded man in the parking lot.
“This person did say or do something to Naomi to make her move over from the driver side to the passenger side,” he said, noting it was then “that I reported it as a kidnapping.”
I have called Panasonic. Ms Irion had neither shown up at work nor called all weekend. The family’s reality was about to turn into a living nightmare.
According to the evidence, after buying an energy drink at a gas station and parking at Walmart, Ms Irion scrolled on social media on her phone until 5.23am. Then her activity stopped.
The teenager’s car was found two days after she disappeared, abandoned in an industrial area and showing signs of suspicious activity, authorities said.
Her phone was last traced to an area near Wadsworth, less than three miles away; it has not been used since and authorities, despite extensive official and volunteer searches involving everything from ATVs to horses, have failed to turn up any evidence of the device she so devotedly used.
Police released footage showing the hooded suspect before he approached Ms Irion – footage of him pacing erratically in front of the store, cars and their headlights.
Focus also shifted to a vehicle pictured nearby, a dark-colored 2020 or newer Chevrolet four-door pickup. That is presumably the vehicle impounded Friday by the sheriff’s department.
On Tuesday morning, Mr Valley, Ms Irion’s mother, sister and 13-year-old brother all teared up while speaking at the local press conference. They not only begged for information on the truck but also placed a noticeable emphasis on social media and the role it may have played in her disappearance of her, and any clues it may reveal.
“What I really want to say is that, if you have any information at all, that you need to come forward… immediately,” Ms Cartwright said Tuesday.
She added: “This is life or death for my sister. Life or death.”