PORT CLINTON, Ohio – The more than three-week search for missing Ohio teen Harley Dilly came to a tragic end on Monday night after his body was found in a chimney of a vacant home, according to police.
Port Clinton Police Chief Rob Hickman said in a news conference Tuesday that a body they believe to be Harley, 14, was found in the chimney of a home across the street from his home in Port Clinton.
Hickman said investigators believe Dilly’s death was accidental, but the cause of death has not been determined. He said the Lucas County Coroner’s Office was conducting an autopsy on Tuesday.
According to Hickman, the home where the body was found is a vacation home and in the process of being remodeled, which is why it was vacant.
Hickman said the residence had been checked multiple times before throughout the ongoing search for the missing teen, but authorities found no signs of forced entry into the home, as the windows were all locked and the doors were all secured. The rear door was secured with a lockbox, according to Hickman.
Social media:Harley Dilly very active online before disappearance
“It appears that Harley climbed an antenna tower to the roof and entered the chimney,” Hickman said. “Once in the chimney, Harley’s jacket and glasses were pushed from the chimney through a flue and into the second floor of the house. The chimney was blocked between the second and first floor, which trapped Harley.”
Hickman said the chimney was approximately 9-by-13 inches wide.
According to Hickman, investigators were led back to the house on Monday as they continued to re-canvass areas already searched.
“Since a lockbox can allow multiple individuals to access a house and the house was vacant, we pursued entry into the house,” Hickman said.
Investigators entered the home shortly after 4 p.m. Monday. Once inside, they found Dilly’s maroon-colored jacket and his glasses next to a brick chimney on the second floor of the house, having been pushed through the flue, which is a chimney vent.
After that, Hickman said investigators discovered what they believe to be Dilly’s body stuck in the chimney.
“This is a tragic outcome to the case and tough loss to the community,” Hickman said. “His family was notified early this morning and this appears to be an accident.”
A member of the Dilly family shared in a post on social media that police confirmed to her that the missing teen was found dead on Monday.
Ashlyn Dilly, Harley’s sister, who lives outside of Ohio, said in comments made on Facebook that she had been visited by local law enforcement in the early morning hours Monday and informed of Harley’s passing.
“Yes, I was visited by my LE (law enforcement) out here per the request of my family to be updated the news,” Ashlyn Dilly wrote in a comment on Facebook following her post about Harley’s death.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday removed the page containing information regarding Harley from its website on missing persons.
Harley was last seen around 6 a.m. on Dec. 20, 2019, when he left for school. Police believe he was spotted in a surveillance camera video taken that morning while he was crossing the street in front of his home.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement, “We are heartbroken over the outcome but know every effort was made to find Harley. Chief Hickman shouldered the weight of this investigation which has resulted in a tragic loss for the community of Port Clinton.”
Last Saturday, more than 120 volunteers participated in a search of the Port Clinton area looking for the missing boy.
A reward of $19,500 had been offered for information leading to Harley’s safe return.