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Washington Co., VA man charged with abduction of Smyth County teen

ABINGDON, VA (WJHL) - The Washington County, VA Sheriff's Office reports a teenage girl who was missing out of Smyth County for more than 3 months has been found safe. 

Investigators say 45-year-old Lee Roy VanMeter of Meadowview, VA has been arrested and charged with abduction. 

Information received by News Channel 11 on September 11 from the Washington County Virginia Sheriff's Office reports this timeline of events:

  • The 15-year-old girl was reported missing on May 30 out of Chilhowie, VA. 
  • An endangered child alert was issued by Virginia State Police on August 15.
  • That alert was canceled on August 16.
  • The missing teen was found safe on September 6. 

The sheriff's office says the missing teen was found on Sept. 6 in an abandoned home located in the 31000 block of Rivermont Drive in Meadowview, VA. 

Investigators could not give any information on her state at the time they found her, or confirm whether or not she was with VanMeter. 

"It's unusual for a child to be missing as long as she was and still be found safe," says Detective Brad Roop, who is working this case for WCSO. 

He is glad the teen is safe after a months-long search.

"There have been multiple agencies involved and the search has never stopped. We've been searching for her this entire time. Anytime we can find them and render them home safely is a good day," says  Detective Brad Roop.

The endangered child alert issued months after the teen was reported missing was canceled on August 16. The Virginia State Police explained that even though the teen was still missing and considered endangered, the time-span for an endangered child alert is 24 hours according to their policy. 

After a full day the endangered child alert is taken down until new information warrants another alert. This case did not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert, which issues higher urgency when asking the public to help locate a missing child. 

Endangered child alerts are issued at the request of local law enforcement by the state police in the state of Virginia. 

Detective Roop says finding the missing teen was a collaborative effort. 

"Anytime we have a child victim we use a team approach. We have a very good team here. We combine efforts with all the law enforcements agencies, the Commonwealth's Attorney, we utilize the Children's Advocacy Center a lot in Bristol, usually the team approach works well," says Detective Roop.

"In this instance we were able to find the child and she is safe now so it was a job well done by all the folks involved."

VanMeter is currently being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon. 

The sheriff's office says the investigation into this case is ongoing and more charges are "anticipated", but the details of those charges could not be provided at this time. 

 


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