Missing teen returns to Pagosa

    1

    Staff Writer

    Seventeen-year-old Dillon McKee, who went missing from Pagosa in the early hours of Feb. 14, was found safe Sunday in Englewood, Colo., near Denver, after calling his mother.

    And while the investigation into the matter remains ongoing, law enforcement involved with the case have determined McKee left willingly.

    McKee was reported missing at about 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14, according to Det. Brandon Bishop with the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office. McKee had last been seen earlier that morning.

    After Cpl. Jake Beech took the report of the missing juvenile, Bishop and Undersheriff Rich Valdez said officials began an investigation that included a search of McKee’s house and the area by a search and rescue team and ACSO staff that lasted into Friday morning.

    The investigation revealed that, earlier that morning, McKee was playing video games with a friend at his home in the Hatcher Lake area when he went into his bedroom and locked the door, Bishop said.

    Later, McKee’s window was found unlocked, with footprints leading from the window to a set of tire tracks that did not belong to any vehicles at the residence, Bishop explained.

    Despite the footprints being partially melted at the time of the investigation Thursday, Bishop said he believed there were two sets of footprints — possibly McKee’s and those of a woman he was with.

    At 3:35 a.m., McKee used his debit card to purchase $45 worth of fuel at the Giant gas station. Bishop added that McKee was also seen using his cell phone on video footage from the gas station, and was seen in the company of a female.

    Investigators obtained a search warrant for McKee’s cell phone records, but Bishop noted the records were delivered following McKee’s call to his mother from Englewood.

    Over the course of the days McKee was missing, Bishop said ACSO staff issued a lookout throughout the Four Corners region and Colorado, entered McKee into the Colorado Crime Information Center database, followed up on several dozen leads and interviewed those McKee was in contact with via the computer.

    Information was also disseminated to local media and to residents of the Hatcher Lake area through the ACSO’s citizen alert system, Valdez said.

    “We didn’t know what the circumstances were,” Valdez said, explaining that, at the time, they were not sure if McKee was hurt, had been taken back to the Hatcher area, or had run away.

    Unfortunately, Valdez said, the situation did not meet the Department of Justice’s criteria for an Amber Alert to be issued, which includes age requirements, a reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred, and a belief that the child is in imminent danger, among other factors.

    “We didn’t ever establish any other reason to believe it wasn’t a runaway,” Bishop said of the investigation.

    Then, on Sunday afternoon, McKee contacted his mother, Amy McKee, reportedly from a Wal-Mart in Englewood. At that point, the mother contacted law enforcement in Englewood, and the family reported to local law enforcement that the juvenile had been found.

    According to Investigator Kevin Sage with the Professional Standards Bureau of the Englewood Police Department, a detective interviewed McKee following the phone call, with McKee initially reporting that he had been kidnapped.

    Sage said McKee then changed his story and, when pressed about it, admitted to making up the kidnapping story.

    Reportedly, McKee had made contact with a 21-year-old female online and talked her into coming to Pagosa Springs to pick him up, then spent several days with her, Sage said.

    “He was a willing participant to come up here,” Sage said.

    The EPD’s investigation is ongoing, Sage said, and there has been no determination made if McKee will be charged with false reporting.

    The investigation in Archuleta County is also continuing, Valdez said. Since the teen returned to Pagosa Springs, Valdez and Bishop said McKee and his family have declined to speak to the ACSO.

    Valdez said it has not yet been determined if a crime was committed in Archuleta County regarding the incident.

    Despite the case not being officially closed, Valdez said he is content with how the incident was handled.

    “In this situation, we did everything we could,” he said. “Our guys did a really good job.”

    Valdez said that, when a person goes missing, several criteria are looked at in determining the best course of action, including age and whether or not it was an abduction by a family or a stranger.

    In this case, Valdez said he authorized staff to work overtime to follow leads because it was a missing juvenile.

    “For this incident, everything went pretty smooth,” Valdez said, acknowledging the ACSO lacks the manpower of other, larger agencies. “We did everything we were capable of doing.”

    Valdez also thanked the other area agencies that aided in the search and investigation.

    On the Saturday during the incident, however, Amy McKee levied allegations against local law enforcement that the family was not being kept up to date and that, “it is as if my family does not exist.”

    When asked about the allegations, Valdez said the detectives were in regular contact with the family in person, as well as via phone and text.

    “We did a lot. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” Valdez said.

    The McKee family declined to comment on the incident to SUN staff, with Jon Eliason, Amy McKee’s fiance, speaking for the family.

    “I am in fear for my family’s life,” Eliason said, adding, “At this point, we feel it’s better to not go too deep into it.”

    randi@pagosasun.com