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Missing 14-year-old boy's body found trapped in chimney of empty house

NBC News logo NBC News 1/14/2020 David K. Li and Mohammed Syed


The body of an Ohio teenager, who vanished in late December, was found trapped inside the chimney of an unoccupied house, authorities said Tuesday.

Police in Port Clinton, Ohio, said Harley Dilly, 14, died after he climbed into the house's chimney on his own and became trapped in a space of about 9 inches by 13 inches, Chief Robert Hickman said.

"It's not the outcome we wanted," Hickman told reporters Tuesday, but, he added, "The family has closure."

"His family was notified early this morning, and this appears to be an accident," the police chief said.

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Harley Dilly's body was found trapped in a chimney of an occupied home in Ohio. © WKYC Harley Dilly's body was found trapped in a chimney of an occupied home in Ohio. When searchers on Monday entered the house, which is around the corner from the listed address of Harley's family's home, they found the boy's glasses and jacket on the second floor before discovering his remains inside the chimney.

"It appears Harley climbed ... to the roof and entered the chimney," Hickman explained. "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."

Police had been to that house earlier during the search, but didn't go inside because there were no signs of a broken lock or busted window.

"Nothing led us to believe there was anybody in the house," Hickman said.

a person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Harley Dilly. © Ohio Attorney General Harley Dilly.

When police ran out of leads, they went back to all the empty houses they had previously searched, according to Hickman. This time they entered the house at 507 Fulton St. and made the tragic discovery.

"With any investigation, we start back from the beginning and re-canvassed everything that has already been checked," Hickman said.

The police chief described the dwelling as a "summer home" that was being remodeled. The home is about a half-mile from the shores of Lake Erie.

An autopsy will be performed on Tuesday, but there is no evidence of foul play, according to Hickman.

The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, part of the Ohio Attorney General's Office, issued an advisory at 7:58 a.m. on Tuesday to end the hunt for Dilly, who vanished on his way to school on Dec. 20 in Port Clinton, about 80 miles west of downtown Cleveland.


Dilly's 26-year-old sister, Ashlyn Dilly, said in a Facebook post that her family has received grim news.

"R.I.H. Harley Dilly and fly high, confirmed by the PD both out there and here in my town" she wrote with seven emojis of a crying face.

Dilly was last spotted going to school on Dec. 20 between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.


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