Deputies say the 16-year-old girl was in serious danger when they found her with a 57-year-old man at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Monday night.
"I can only say, had they not gotten there when they did -- I shudder to think what might have happened," said Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White.
Authorities looked into the window of Edward Christy's home, and according to documents, they saw the alleged victim, identified only as "K.Y.", tied up by her wrists and neck with straps. White flashes were seen. Deputies believed she was being photographed.
Authorities in New Mexico were directed to the home after getting a call from Westminster Police, who were trying to find a girl who ran away from home Sunday.
"Parents had started their own investigation. They went through daughter's computer and they located some personal communications and some other suggestive conversations through chat and e-mail that was way beyond anything of the norm," said Westminster Police Officer Cameron Knauerhaze.
The girl met Christy about a month and a half ago, according to documents, through Agematch.com, a dating Web site for people seeking age-gap relationships.
The man allegedly told investigators he thought she was 18 and asked for two photos of her. Police allege he later confessed to knowing she was just 16 when he drove to Westminster to pick her up. The man allegedly had sex with the teen twice, once in a motel in Needles, another time at his home in New Mexico.
Westminster Police credit a newly formed partnership with a task force called Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) and a computer forensics investigator for finding the girl so quickly.
"They were able to pretty much break down the entire computer and get info out of it," said Knauerhaze.
Police say the case serves as a reminder to parents to watch what your kids do online.
"It's very important for parents to know exactly what their children are doing online and how much time they're spending on the Internet," said Knauerhaze.
Edward Christy is in custody, facing a number of charges in California and New Mexico and at the federal level, including sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor.