Police are seeking an arrest warrant for a Wisconsin teen suspected of unlawfully restraining a 14-year-old Essex boy reported missing late Wednesday night. The two were located in a vehicle this morning outside of Utica, N.Y., four hours away, Essex police said Thursday.
Ryan Devenney, 14, was last seen leaving home on his bicycle around 6 p.m. Police believe he met the suspect – a 17-year-old male – a half-hour later near Essex Cinemas, where they later found his bike, Chief Rick Garey told reporters Thursday.
Police believe the two minors were communicating online and may have planned to meet up yesterday. Garey said their destination hadn’t been verified, but he believes they may have been heading back to Wisconsin.
“This could be a very serious case,” Garey said, “which is why we had people all night working on it and why it was a top priority.”
Garey declined to disclose the suspect’s name until the arrest warrant is granted. He planned to cite the suspect with unlawful felony restraint, a crime that carries a punishment of up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine, and said additional charges may be forthcoming.
“We could be looking at a kidnapping, we could be looking at a luring,” Garey said. “That comes back to interviews and determining [the suspect’s] motive.” He added the case could possibly go federal because the suspect crossed state lines.
Essex police worked with local and state authorities in both New York and Vermont during the search. EPD identified the suspect through interviews and entered his license plate into an automatic recognition system. New York State Police located the vehicle this morning and made contact around 11:30 a.m.
EPD was on the verge of issuing an Amber Alert when authorities in New York reported a hit on the license plate. Garey said police must believe the victim is in danger before issuing an Amber Alert.
“When you have two people who know each other, and the person may have voluntarily gone with them, you may not meet that element,” he said.
But police learned additional information about the suspect that showed the victim could be at risk – “facts the victim may not have known,” Garey said. He wouldn’t elaborate further Thursday evening.
Police don’t know where Devenney and the suspect were during the 18 or so hours after leaving Essex, or whether they met online. Garey said those questions will be part of the criminal investigation.
Devenney and the suspect are currently in the custody of New York State Police. Garey said Devenney’s parents were notified immediately after he was located and police are now making arrangements to get him home.