The cost of searching for a runaway - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The cost of searching for a runaway

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July 7, 2005

Lowndes County - Investigators spent four days searching for 17-year-old Leah Deltedesco but found nothing. That's because the whole time, she was hiding in her boyfriend's apartment in New Port Richey, Florida. "We just kept working it and got good leads, followed the leads out until we found her," said Sgt. Wanda Edwards.

The boyfriend's cell phone records show that he used his phone in Valdosta at the same time Leah supposedly disappeared. Police confronted him at a candlelight vigil for Leah last night, and he gave her up.

Now he could face charges. "He could be charged with giving a false statement, because we went to the boyfriend first and he said he hadn't seen her but the whole time they were together."

But a lot of people think Leah should be punished too. "She did an irresponsible thing and there should be consequences for it," said Lisa Smith.

Investigators worked overtime looking for the runaway. "We had officers that were brought in, called in early or pulled away from the task they were doing," said Edwards.

They also spent money traveling back and forth to Douglas to interview Leah's family, and subpoenaing cell phone records. "We worked on it day and night until we found her," said Edwards.

Not only did the search for Leah cost the sheriff's department thousands of dollars, investigators also lost valuable time they could have spent working on other cases. "We had cases we couldn't investigate because this was a pressing matter and we need to work on it," said Edwards.

Edwards says all the evidence they found pointed to Leah being a runaway, but the sheriff's office had to treat it as a missing persons case, and did everything they could to do find her. "There's a lot of people that say you should've known she was a runaway, well, we don't have a crystal ball, and you've got to follow it out and substantiate what happened," said Edwards.

Lowndes County is not pressing charges against Leah, but she could still face charges in Florida.

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