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The body of a rural Ohio teenager who went missing shortly before Christmas was likely found on Monday, police said.
On Tuesday, January 14, authorities announced they recovered a body from the chimney of a vacant property in Port Clinton, who they suspect is Harley Dilly, a 14-year-old who had been missing since Dec. 20.
The child died from compressive asphyxia, coroners said. Medical examiners ruled his death accidental, but noted the identity of the body is still pending following toxicology results.
“It’s not the outcome we wanted,” Port Clinton police chief Robert Hickman said during a press briefing. “At this time, there does not appear to be any foul play expected.”
Investigators, who gained entry to the deserted Port Clinton home on Monday, found the child’s jacket and glasses on the second floor next to a chimney flue, and later discovered the body wedged in the chimney. The property, they said, was across the street from Dilly’s family home.
Detectives suspect the 14-year-old climbed a TV antenna tower to the roof of the home where he climbed into the chimney. Hickman said the chimney was blocked between the second and first floor, trapping the teenager there. The chimney, police said, measured nine by 13 inches.
It’s unknown what Dilly was doing at the empty home, which police say was being remodeled by the owner. Police previously thought he may have ran away from home following a fight with his parents, the Associated Press reported.
Hickman, who said officers had previously searched in the vicinity of the abandoned home, claimed the residence didn’t show any signs of forced entry.
“Nothing led us to believe that anyone was inside the house,” Hickman added.
The 14-year-old was reported missing days before Christmas. But in the weeks that followed, few clues emerged as to his whereabouts. Police previously released an image from surveillance footage, which appeared to show Dilly walking to school the morning he disappeared sometime between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
Dilly’s disappearance triggered nationwide attention and a reward totaling approximately $20,000 was offered for information leading to his whereabouts. K-9 rescue teams, federal and state police agencies, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshals Service scoured the neighborhood for weeks but were unable to locate the teenager.
Hickman, who choked back tears while speaking to reporters, said the case has devastated the small Ohio city.
“I promised myself not to break down today,” the police chief stated. “What would your state of mind be if you lost your 14-year-old? I can’t put words into that. Can you?”
Dilly uploaded and streamed videos by the dozen to several YouTube channels. His many uploads provided a small window into what appeared to be a typical teenager’s life. The upbeat and talkative 14-year-old vlogged about goofing around with friends, video games, the Cleveland Browns, and the mundanity of cafeteria lunches.
His videos often began by chirping to the camera, “What up? It’s your boy Harley Dilly.”
Dilly's case has become a lightning rod for armchair detectives across the internet, some of whom questioned whether Dilly’s family was involved in his death.
Police, however, previously stated that Dilly's parents, who “fully cooperated,” weren’t suspects in his disappearance.
“We have no reason to believe they are involved,” the Port Clinton Police Department said in a statement on Jan. 13.
The boy’s mother, Heather Dilly, made an earlier plea in a now-deleted Facebook video, asking for people to "stop bashing" her family.
“He is not a runaway,” Heather said, the Sandusky Register reported. “That’s not like him. He does not do this stuff. He’s a mama’s boy. He has a routine.”
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