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Nationwide search for Maryland girl believed abducted by father

By Alice Popovici

TOWSON, Maryland (Reuters) - Police seeking a Maryland man suspected of abducting his 11-year-old daughter and wanted in connection with the death of her mother widened their search to across the United States on Friday.

The suspect, Timothy Virts, 38, went missing with his daughter, Caitlyn Virts, on Thursday after last being seen in Dundalk, Maryland, police said.

"We believe that he may be armed and we certainly believe he is dangerous," police spokeswoman Elise Armacost told a news conference.

The search for Virts and his daughter has been expanded since they have not been found in Maryland or the neighboring state of West Virginia, Armacost said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation will help police with their investigation.

Virts is wanted in connection with the death of Bobbie Jo Cortez, 36, Caitlyn's mother. Police found Cortez dead in her bedroom with multiple cut wounds to her upper body.

An autopsy showed she died of "sharp-force injury," Armacost said.

Virts had been staying at Cortez's house and he and his daughter are believed to be driving a black 1999 Dodge Durango. The car belongs to Cortez's husband, who is being held in the Baltimore County jail on sex offense charges.

An Amber Alert, issued by law enforcement, broadcasters and other agencies in cases of serious child abductions, has been put out for the missing girl.

Police have said they are concerned about Caitlyn Virts' safety since she is not supposed to be with her father.

Cortez had lived at the Dundalk home with Caitlyn, her twin sister and a son and with two adults with unverified relationships with the mother, police said in a statement.

The other two children are safe and in the custody of family members, it said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Ellen Wulfhorst and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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