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Authorities weigh next steps for investigation of missing Port Clinton teen

By BROOKS SUTHERLAND • Dec 27, 2019 at 10:52 AM

PORT CLINTON — Authorities continue to discuss next steps in the investigation of a missing 14-year-old Port Clinton boy after the youth wasn't located during an hours-long search of 150 acres around the teen's residence.

The search for 14-year-old Harley Dilly concluded for the night around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, after multiple agencies searched the area.

Port Clinton Police Chief Rob Hickman said at a news conference he would meet with other officials Thursday night about how to continue the investigation.

His department conducted the search alongside two helicopters from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the United States Border and Customs Protection, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, Port Clinton Fire and EMS, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals, a dozen K-9 teams, and about 75 people. The young boy was last seen last Friday at about 7 a.m.

Police all day Thursday blocked off the area around the Dilly youth's residence on East 5th Street from the railroad tracks all the way to State Route. 2. Roughly 150 acres of land in the area were split up into six zones, which authorities searched and cleared throughout the day.

"I believe Harley is still alive out there," Chief Hickman said. "And until I get otherwise, Harley's still alive. I don't know if a friend is hiding him. I don't know where Harley is."

Terri Finley, a neighbor, who lives down the road from the youth, said she doesn't know the family but called the situation "scary." She talked to The Blade outside her home on East 5th Street as helicopters whipped by the area.

"It's kind of freaking me out a little bit," Finley said outside her home. "With the helicopters going overhead and knowing the severity of the situation, this boy has been gone for a week now and nobody knows where he's at. It's really scary."

Leanna Beaver, 25, of Port Clinton said she's friends with a sister of the Dilly youth, who she said lives in Kansas and is concerned about the situation.

"I know he's a troubled kid," Beaver said. "I know his home life isn't the best."

Chief Hickman said search crews fanned out in the area after "no new leads" came from surveillance footage that they believe captured the young boy near his residence on East 5th Street sometime between 6 and 7 a.m. Friday.

"We're trying to cover 150 acres," the chief said. "...All the agencies reached out and that's why it's being done today."

He later added that he didn't call a news conference until almost a week after the boy was last seen because the department had "no new information," about him other than the footage and the belief that he was last seen last Friday morning.

"We had to do our job first before we could release anything," he said.

The chief declined to answer questions from media about the youth's mental or developmental states, but he indicated it is not unusual for the teen to leave and spend a night away from home when he is upset about something that happened in the house. The chief said he may have been upset about having a piece of electronics taken away from him.

"In the past, when they have a conflict in the residence, Harley will go away for the night," Chief Hickman said.

On Wednesday, the chief announced the agency — along with Ottawa County Prosecutor James VanEerten — had offered $2,000 for information about the young boy's whereabouts. Joe and Pam Jenkins of the Sandusky chapter of Bikers Against Abused and Neglected Children matched that offer to raise the reward for information to $4,000.

Joe Jenkins said he saw the youth's disappearance on Facebook and decided to help out.

"Mainly, we deal with children in court cases, more so than this kind of situation," he said. "But it just so happened we saw on Facebook what was going on and it's been like five days and it's just not getting anywhere."

Jenkins added: "This is heartbreaking, it really is," she said. "To know that we've got this little fella out here."

Chief Hickman said the family of the youth has "fully cooperated" with the investigation and allowed police to search their house multiple times. He added that they were "distraught," and "handling [the situation] the best they could."

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