19-year-old arrested in connection to missing person case.
JOPLIN, Mo. – 46 days. That’s how long 14-year-old Leora Hardee was missing.
Hardee was first reported missing on September 17th.
Now, after a month and a half and exhaustive searches by law enforcement at a local and federal level, we know more about how she ended up being found more than 600 miles away in Wisconsin, and how she got back home to her family.
According to the City of Oconomowoc Police Department, on Nov. 2, 2020, a 14-year-old girl was brought to the department shortly before 10:00 p.m.
A release by Joplin Police on November 3rd says she turned herself in to a law enforcement agency in Wisconsin.
She informed officers that she was missing since September 17, 2020. After getting her information, officers contacted the Joplin Police Department and confirmed her identity.
City of Oconomowoc Police started working with the Joplin Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation to further investigate.
On Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, they took a 19-year-old man from Oconomowoc into custody. He’s at the Waukesha County Jail.
According to police, the investigation showed that the male drove to Joplin, Missouri on or around Sept. 17 to pick up Leora Hardee. He then drove them back to Oconomowoc and she has been staying with him since that time.
Leora was reunited with her family on November 3rd thanks to the RISE Coalition, which purchased a plane ticket to get her from Wisconsin back to Joplin.
“When it was brought to our attention that there was a young girl that really had been founded and needed to be reunited with her family, we offered to expedite that facilitation,” explains Karolyn Schrage with the RISE Coalition.
The RISE Coalition is a victim advocacy organization that works to connect victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking with resources for recovery in the four-states.
Schrage says the group got involved because of their close relationship with Joplin Police, and not as much because of their main organizational functions.
“We had been part of assisting the police department to get them fed while they were doing the incredible search that they did for that missing person at that point in time. And so… we were alerted to the fact that she had been found and were able in that instance to say ‘Hey, is this a way that we could assist?’” says Schrage.
Joplin Police wouldn’t comment on the arrest. But, William Davis with the department says there is still an investigator in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin working on the case. That investigator is expected to return to Joplin on November 6th.
Police in Wisconsin say criminal charges could be filed soon against the 19-year-old.