The body of a teenage boy who had been missing since December 20 has been found inside an abandoned house, trapped in the chimney.
Harley Dilly, 14, from Port Clinton, Ohio, was last seen on December 20, leaving for the last day of school before winter break at around 7am, but he never made it to school.
The disappearance led to a widespread search of the Port Clinton area, with multiple agencies liaising with the Port Clinton Police Department.
Port Clinton Police Department Chief Robert J. Hickman held a press conference on Tuesday, local time, to alert the public they had found the body, ending the four-week-long police investigation.
“This is a tragic outcome to the case and a tough loss for the community,” Hickman said, adding this is not the outcome police and the wider community were hoping for.
Since police starting investigating on December 22, the community had rallied behind the force, fundraising a reward for information leading to the safe return of Harley, according to a post made by the police on January 11. More than A$28,000 had been raised.
Chief Hickerman explained the investigation led officers to extensively canvas a particular neighbourhood of Port Clinton, which eventually led police to search an abandoned house.
Chief Hickerman said the house had previously been checked, there was no evidence of forced entry, all the windows and doors remained locked.
Police conducted a search of the house just after 4pm on Tuesday, there they found Harley’s coat and glasses were discovered on the second floor of the house, next to a brick chimney.
Chief Hickerman said the chimney was nine inches by 13 inches.
“We were then able to discover what we believe to be Harley who was caught in the chimney,” Chief Hickerman said, adding his family was notified prior to the press conference.
“This appears to be an accident. At this time there does not appear to be any foul play.
“No cause of death has been determined, an autopsy is being conducted.”
According to a statement released by Port Clinton Police on Facebook from Dan Cadigan MD, the Ottawa County Coroner, the cause of death of the “young male in Port Clinton is compressive asphyxia”.
Although the statement does not name Harley, and it says the final identification is “pending”, it is apparent the statement is in relation to the body found in the chimney and reinforced the police’s suspicions on cause of death.
“Manner of death appears to be accidental at this time but is awaiting completion of law enforcement investigations,” the coroner wrote.
At the press conference, Chief Hickerman said it is believed Harley climbed an antenna tower, on to the roof of the house, and entered the chimney.
It is believed Harley’s glasses and coat which was discovered by detectives on the second floor were pushed through the chimney flute, but the chimney was blocked between the second and first floor, which trapped Harvey.
“You talk about people coming together at a time of need, that’s exactly what we saw throughout the community and beyond,” Chief Hickerman said.
It appears the Dilly family is yet to comment publicly since the body was discovered.
In addition to raising money for a reward, the community also participated in a volunteer search party and a Facebook group called Search Party for Harley Dilly was dedicated to finding the 14-year-old.
The police kept the Port Clinton community informed through Facebook, but constantly pleaded with the public not to indulge in rumours which could hinder the investigation.
However, through the police Facebook page, the family did make a statement on Facebook, the Dilly family thanked the agencies and individuals who had helped with the search throughout the holiday season.
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