Crime & Courts

Missing SC teen is found safe; stepfather at large

An Amber Alert that was issued for a 14-year-old missing Chesterfield County girl, was canceled on Monday after the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office said the teen was found.

Officials say Alexis Ann Deas was found safe at a family member's house in Lancaster around 1 a.m. Deputies say Deas had been camping with her stepfather, Harland Donnell Melton, who they believe abducted her from school on Friday.

Chesterfield deputies say they are searching for Melton who they say is "still on the run and believed to be in the Franklin, North Carolina area."

"We'll find him...It's just a matter of time," Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks said on Monday.

"Mr. Melton contacted his father. His father went to Franklin, North Carolina, picked her up and transported her back to his house in Lancaster County," Brooks said. Deputies believe Melton released Deas under growing pressure of the Amber Alert. Melton called Deas' mother, who Brooks said immediately called police. Deas told deputies that they were living in a tent in a remote part of the mountains in Franklin since Friday.

Brooks says over 100 tips came into the sheriff's office after the Amber Alert was issued for Deas on Saturday, with calls from as far away as Idaho.

"It was very emotional" "A lot of tears. A lot of happy tears," Brooks said after finding Deas. "The most important part was tonight in this office when she was reunited with her family and her momma got to hold her and the tears of joy were a great thing to see."

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Fugitive Task Force had boots on the ground all weekend searching campsites.

Melton has also been known to go off the grid before, according to Brooks.

The Chesterfield County Sheriff said Deas' mother called authorities Friday and said Alexis never got off the school bus. Before Deas was found, she was last seen at New Heights Middle School in Jefferson, SC, according to SLED.

Brooks says Deas was signed out of school by Melton who told school administrators he was taking her to a dentist appointment.

Melton has a history of assault and battery charges, according to Brooks.

Officials say Deas was found hungry and dehydrated but in safe and good condition. She was taken to the Chesterfield General Hospital for a physical evaluation. She is now staying with her mother who says she's glad Deas is OK.

Based on information from family and friends, SLED says Melton could be driving a 1999 black Nissan Maxima with South Carolina tag number IUF 593.

According to authorities, the car has damage to the front right corner and the front right turn signal is broken.

Melton is facing charges for kidnapping, interfering with custodial rights of a parent, and more, officials say.

"We are very, very happy that this came to a happy conclusion. We look forward to wrapping it up and getting Mr. Melton into custody," Brooks said.

Anyone with information is asked to call 911.