Smyth Co. Sheriff’s Office: Amber Alert search costs over $43K


According to the Smyth County Sheriff’s Office, $43,090 was spent on the search for missing teen Hayleigh Wilson, including $37,700 to pay for 1,241 hours of overtime.

“I think the amount could have definitely been used elsewhere, I mean, we’ve got so many streets that could be repaved and schools,” said Cassi Rountree, who lives in Smyth County.

Rountree says the county hurts for money as it is, and she says this news comes as a blow.

“I would be really interested to know if this incident hadn’t happened, where would we have used that money,” she said.

And Rountree is not the only one speaking up. Folks across the region sounded off on our Facebook page; comments varied from lamenting what that money could have been spent on, to suggesting Hayleigh Wilson do community service to pay off the bill.

Rountree says while she’s glad Hayleigh is safe, she feels the cost to taxpayers is too great.

“I feel like if it had been my children, yes, I would have appreciated the man hours, however; this girl left her home willingly, and though while I think we should have reached out to her, I don’t think that much should have been allocated in funding for this situation,” she said.

The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office says it will try to recoup that money by asking for restitution from Benjamin Shook. But that may be difficult since Shook is in federal custody facing extensive criminal charges.

SMYTH COUNTY, VA (WJHL) – The 16-day search for 14-year-old Hayleigh Wilson and wanted sex offender Benjamin Shook resulted in several Smyth County, Va. Sheriff’s Office dollars being used – over $43,000 to be exact.

According to a news release from Smyth County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Chip Shuler, the total approximate Smyth County, Va. Sheriff’s Office costs associated with the search operation totaled $43,090.

“We were involved in the search for sixteen days, June 25 through July 7,” Shuler said. “Approximately 1,241 overtime hours were expended at a cost of $37,700, approximately $5,000 in fuel costs and $390 for food and water.

Shuler said it should also be noted that the sheriff’s office had personnel on regular duty that were also involved in the search, which is not reflected in the total costs.

Aiding in the search, several businesses and citizens also donated food and water, and Shuler said the sheriff’s office is appreciative of the Smyth County School Board for allowing them to use Sugar Grove Elementary School for the command post.

Shuler said the sheriff’s office has not filed any criminal charges against Shook, but said they do anticipate filing charges in the near future.

“It is our intention to ask the Commonwealth’s Attorney to ask for the above listed costs to be made restitution in the matter upon Shook’s conviction in our jurisdiction,” Shuler said.

Shuler said the sheriff’s office’s investigation remains ongoing at this time.Copyright 2015 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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