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HILLSVILLE — A note about a supposed missing person left in a Hillsville hotel put police agencies across North America to work to find out if there had been an actual kidnapping.
After following leads to Florida, Pennsylvania and French-speaking Quebec, Canada, Hillsville police expressed their relief that no one was ever in danger.
“The Hillsville Police Department with the help of state, local, national and international law enforcement agencies has located and confirmed all parties involved in the possible abduction/missing person case have been located,” Capt. Jason Hawks said in a press release. “All parties have been verified by law enforcement officials to be fine and the case has been cleared.”
A person of interest was developed by the Hillsville police, who worked with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, which verified the note asking for help was bogus, according to the press release.
No information will be released about the juvenile writer of the note, which had been in the room for several days and caused the stir when discovered by hotel staff, and launched a search for the whereabouts of a Canadian citizen who had stayed in the room.
The man had no connection to the writer of the note, but security cameras showed him traveling with someone who police initially thought might be the "kidnapped" person.
The juvenile will not be charged, police indicated last week.
“We also commend the staff at the Quality Inn in Hillsville for reporting this and working with the local agencies,” town police said.
Hawks thanked all agencies for their involvement in the case, including Carroll Sheriff J.B. Gardner and his deputies, the FBI, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Interpol, the Clearinghouse for Missing Children, Fusion Center and others.
The help of these agencies helped bring a quick resolution to what could have been a serious situation, Hawks said.
HILLSVILLE — An investigation into a note left at a Hillsville motel, which raised concerns about a possible missing child, has been debunked by police.
A prank resulted in an international investigation that reached from Florida to Canada last week.
Hillsville Police Department Investigator James Alderman told The Gazette on Friday afternoon that a man from Quebec who was wanted for questioning has been cleared.
“The note is bogus,” Alderman said. “I’m very, very happy with the outcome.”
Though the note was apparently a joke, no one is laughing after authorities in two countries — including the FBI, Interpol and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — worked with Hillsville and Carroll County police to follow up leads in the matter.
“Jason [Hawks, captain with the Hillsville Police Department] and Kevin Kemp [investigator with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office] came up with a name and address and gave it to the FBI and they followed up. It was some distance away.” Alderman explained on Friday, after the investigators had put time and resources into locating a possible suspect, a Canadian man who, it turned out, just happened to be passing through Hillsville and became implicated in the incident.
This investigation arose after the Hillsville Police Department received a call from a hotel located at Interstate 77’s Exit 14 on Thursday.
Capt. Hawks received a call to the Quality Inn Hotel in Hillsville. The housekeeping staff found a handwritten note from a child who claimed to be “missing.”
The note also said “the cops are looking for me,” according to police.
“We don’t know if it’s something legit, if it’s an actual missing person, if it’s a kidnapping or if it’s a bad joke,” Hawks said Friday morning, when the investigation was still active.
A search of national, state and local databanks turned up no record of a child by the name of Jasmine Hines — the name on the note — being reported missing, according to authorities.
On Friday, Hillsville police had law enforcement agencies in Florida and Pennsylvania following up leads, Alderman said.
After reviewing security video, police determined that on Nov. 28, a man named Pierre Morand of Lachute, Quebec, Canada, checked into the Quality Inn and rented a room for one person.
A later check of video surveillance footage revealed that the man had a person traveling with him. Due to the poor quality of the security video, police determined the person could a child.
The fact that the person registered for a single occupancy room and the video showed two people leaving “changed the dynamics and raised concerns,” Alderman said.
In fact, Morand was reportedly traveling with his wife. The retired fire chief was on his way to Florida on vacation, officials in Quebec said.
Alderman said the handwriting on the hotel stationary looked childlike. The note was left on a dresser in the hotel room, as if someone wanted it to be discovered.
But, it turned out that there was no kidnapping after all.
“A minor child was located and said that they wrote [the note.] It was a kid doing something stupid,” Alderman said late Friday afternoon.
Alderman didn’t anticipate any charges would be filed in this matter. He declined to release a name of the child who wrote the note, since the writer was a juvenile.
Further complicating the investigation was the language barrier, Alderman said. The province is home to many French-speaking people, which made information gathering difficult.
The investigator considers wrapping up these concerns about a kidnapping as a kind of early Christmas present. He feels relief that no child was in danger.
“This had a happy ending,” Alderman said. “It could have been a very, very, very bad ending.”