For weeks, Harley Dilly, a 14-year-old Port Clinton, Ohio teenager and YouTuber, appeared to have vanished into thin air, mysteriously disappearing after leaving for school. However, police now say that Harley died accidentally after being trapped in the chimney of a vacant house across the street from where he lived. They don’t believe foul play is involved.
Journalists rushed to the scene of the search, which unfolded into the darkness and early morning hours. In the morning came the grim news: Harley was dead. Horrifically, his body was located inside the chimney, Chief Robert Hickman said in a news conference, with his glasses and red puffer jacket nearby. It was a tragic culmination to a search that started after Harley disappeared on December 20, 2019, galvanizing the community.
“This is not the outcome anyone wanted,” an emotional Hickman said in the news conference. “We believe Harley Dilly was recovered last evening.”
According to an alert sent out by the Ohio Attorney General’s office and obtained by Heavy.com, “The Statewide Endangered Child Advisory has been cancelled and the child has been recovered.” You can watch the police press conference here:
Ashlyn Dilly, Harley’s sister, earlier confirmed the sad news, writing on Facebook, “R.I.H. Harley Dilly and fly high, confirmed by the PD both out there and here in my town ???????.”
Live video from the scene shows authorities conducted a major search of the vacant home that is located very close to Harley’s family home. According to the Beacon Journal, a coroner was at that house and authorities “were seen removing a portion of the home’s wall.” Authorities used a drone to get a better look at the chimney on the vacant home.
Harley was an avid user of social media. His YouTube channel shows a novice attempt to achieve Internet stardom, especially when it comes to the world of Madden gaming videos. This caused concern early on as the teenager even posted his phone number with one video. It’s not clear why Harley would go (or possibly fall) into the chimney of a vacant home owned by another family.
For weeks, there was a concerted community effort to find Dilly that included a reward fund built out of many community sources. However, rumors also swirled around the Internet, and the police chief repeatedly asked people to stop sharing them. The boy’s disappearance was featured on an episode of LivePD, and his mother has posted on Facebook and appeared on television about the case.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Chief Says Harley Climbed an Antenna Tower, Ended Up in the Chimney & Became Trapped
Chief Hickman explained why Harley wasn’t found earlier, considering the vacant house is across the street from his family’s home, saying, “The house had previously been checked multiple times…We had no reason to believe anyone was in the house.” That’s because it was dead-bolted and locked, with a lock box. However, on January 13, authorities decided to do yet another canvas of Harley’s neighborhood. This led them back to the vacant house, which they decided to enter.
“It had previously been checked multiple times. There was no evidence of forced entry, there was a lock box, doors were secured,” said Hickman. Authorities needed two keys to get inside.
The house was then searched. Harley’s coat and glasses were discovered on the second floor of the house next to a brick chimney. “We were then able to discover what we believe to be Harley, who was caught in the chimney. His family was notified early this morning, and this appears to be an accident. At this time, there does not appear to be any foul play expected,” said the emotional police chief. “No cause of death has been determined. An autopsy is being conducted.”
It appears that Harley “climbed an antenna tower to the roof and entered the chimney,” said the chief. Once in the chimney, his belongings – jacket, glasses – were pushed from the chimney through a flue into the second floor of the house. The chimney was blocked between the second and first floor, which “trapped Harley.” The chimney is approximately 9 inches by 13 inches, said the chief. Hickman declined to say whether authorities think Harley threw the glasses and jacket out of the chimney. The home is a summer home that its owners are currently remodeling.
“This is a tragic outcome to the case, and a tough loss to the community,” he said. “I want to stress that the investigators in this case were many, and the investigation was thorough. You talk about people coming together in a time of need. That’s exactly what we saw from throughout the community and beyond. I now ask for the same compassion and support as the family and friends begin to grieve.”
This is what the Attorney General’s office provided:
News5 Cleveland had earlier reported that the boy’s body was found after police searched “a vacant home on Fulton Street.”
A red puffy coat like the one Harley was wearing when he disappeared was glimpsed by reporters through the window of the vacant home that authorities searched.
Here’s more video of the vacant house. At about 2:30 a.m. on January 14, an ambulance arrived, and something was taken out of the house, but journalists were blocked from seeing what it was. The ambulance then went over to Harley Dilly’s house, and a medic went inside, according to a Fox8 journalist in a live report.
Local journalists say police used a drone to look at the chimney of the house. The coroner and other authorities were at the scene for more than seven hours and a sledgehammer and bags of evidence were seen at the scene, they said.
Harley’s missing person’s poster says that Harley Dilly was born on August 12, 2005 and disappeared on December 20, 2019. He’s a white male with brown hair and green eyes, who stands 4 foot 9 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds. He disappeared from Port Clinton, Ohio, and is 14 years old.
When last seen, Harley was wearing the maroon puffer jacket, grey sweatpants, and black tennis shoes.
2. Harley Vanished After He Left for School
It appeared the boy had gotten ready for school and then simply disappeared. He never made it there.
“He was supposed to go to school that day. He didn’t come home,” said the police chief in a press conference. The parents became concerned. He went missing on a Friday; police were notified on that Saturday.
However, it emerged it wasn’t that unusual for Harley to leave the family home, even for the night.
The parents felt he had “stayed out all night before,” and when he didn’t come home, they became concerned, about 24 hours later. The chief found out on Facebook that Harley’s mom had posted about her concern. The extensive investigation was started Monday. According to the chief, Harley’s habit was to stay with friends when there were issues in the home.
According to police, Harley “was last seen on December 20th, 2019 in Port Clinton, Ohio, as Harley was leaving for school between the hours of 6:00am and 7:00am but never arrived…Law enforcement is concerned for his safety.” In a press conference, the chief said Harley had complained of feeling sick but was told to go to school.
On January 3, 2020, Pat Adkins, the local school superintendent posted a message to parents that explained that the district was working closely with Port Clinton police to locate missing high school student, Harley Dilly. Counseling was available for those who needed it.
3. Police Said Early On That They Didn’t Think Harley’s Family Was Involved
Port Clinton police, in a December 31, 2019 update, said that Harley’s family has “fully cooperated and we have no reason to believe they are involved.” They added, “Our investigators continue to research the records that we have been able to obtain thus far. The investigation is being conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement partners.”
Police asked people to stop spreading rumors. “Please allow the professionals involved in this case to continue to do their job – we are working tirelessly and will continue to do so until Harley is brought home and reunited with his family,” they wrote.
Harley’s parents are named Heather and Marcus Dilly. Harley’s mom’s profile picture shows a candle and the hashtag, #comehomeharleydilly. Heather Dilly wrote that she is married to Marcus Dilly. She describes herself as “Daughter, Wife, Mom, Aunt and Mimi…To some a sister, never by blood but always by heart ?”
According to the Sandusky Register, Harley’s mom posted a no longer visible video to Facebook, saying, “You all want to see what I look like when I’m not taking my meds to help? You want to know what it’s like to have a son missing? It hurts. It makes you feel like you can’t go on. But you have to go on. You don’t understand. You seriously don’t know what it feels like.”
Marcus Dilly’s Facebook page says he is a truck driver at Republic Trash Services who is from Cleveland. In 2015, he wrote, “My wife is such a great person. She takes care of everything and everyone and I come home to a clean home and good meal. She deserves hugs kisses and flowers more often. I love you Heather Styndl Dilly.”
Heather Dilly told Cleveland ABC station WEWS. “I mean, somebody had to have seen something. You see everything on TV, you watch all these crime shows and you think, ‘oh, that’s never going to happen.’ And they solve it in an hour. It doesn’t take an hour to find out everything. I love you Harley, please come home. Please, I just … We need you, I don’t believe that you ran, but if you did just please, this isn’t you.”
She added: “The scrutiny that comes with it, nobody tells you how you’re going to be bashed and your family. And the biggest focus is Harley. That’s the biggest thing. You know, everybody can think whatever they want and that’s fine. But he’s out there somewhere, and you know, it’s two weeks and I have to get up every day and look in that room and he’s not there. I have to see his light. I won’t even go sleep in my own bed. I have to go lay on the couch so I can make sure he walks in.”
Asked when she last saw her son, Heather told the TV station, “I didn’t see him, I talked to him,” without explaining further. She said her husband drives around at 2 a.m. looking for the boy.
In 2015, she also wrote, “Okay. Won’t go into detail but Harley is bored and we’ll boys who are bored get into trouble…” And that same year: “Omg omg omg big surprise for Harley Dilly for his bday…Let’s just say…life is getting much busier…and I love it ❤”
Harley had a Facebook page, but it doesn’t have much on it. A drawing, a picture of a dog, and not much more. He did share the number 01 fashioned out of a Confederate flag and a picture of a video game like scene with the word “crime” drawn on it, but those are old posts.
4. Police Found a Surveillance Camera Image of Harley – One of the Only Early Clues They Revealed
On LivePD, detective Ronald Timmons of the Port Clinton police department, said authorities were able to obtain a surveillance camera image showing a person they believe to be Harley crossing the street in front of his house at 6:08 in the morning on December 20. That was the last known sighting of Harley.
“He has a very particular schedule. He eats certain foods and bathes sometimes four or five times a day. If he goes to a friend’s house he will go to the house and return to bathe before going to the friend’s house for the rest of the day. He stays around the house fairly often,” Timmons said.
His cell phone was broken at the residence at the time he left, Timmons said on LivePD, but it wasn’t clear what this was based on.
It was 18 degrees when he left in a thin sweatshirt and thin puffy coat.
Police Chief Rob Hickman previously told ABC13 that his officers were called to the Dilly home in the past but he wouldn’t say why. He also said the boy “does not warm up to people” quickly.
In the past, when there was a conflict in the residence, Harley would leave for the night. That wasn’t rare, the chief said in a press conference.
“We’ve had a couple calls there. Harley was upset over an incident that happened at home. We were involved,” the chief said, without elaborating. He said that happened a month ago.
5. Harley Had a Very Active Social Media Presence That Caused Concern
On LivePD, Detective Timmons confirmed that Harley “does have a big social media presence. He’s on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, Discord, and he likes mobile games, but there was no activity on any of that” since he disappeared.
His most recent video on YouTube, from 2019, was titled, “RIP Harley Dilly YouTube Channel.” In the video, he talks about starting a new YouTube channel and getting rid of his old one after four years. “It’s over. 4 Years ago started the channel and today I buried it );” the video says. His YouTube channel is causing concern, according to Sandusky Register. One video shows him shirtless. It’s called 1st QnA Come And Join Me, and he gives out his phone number in it.
In another video, the newspaper reports, Harley “talks about how he was charged with menacing for setting up a schoolmate into a fight for which he planned to sell tickets so others could watch the other boy get beat up.”
“This is not the end. It’s just a new start to a channel that is going to be bigger than you can imagine,” he says. The YouTube channel has many videos in which he speaks to the camera, vlogs at school, plays Xbox on camera, and so on. One joking video is captioned, “We found a dead body by in abandon rock pile not clickbait at all.” That one is from 2018. In one video from 2018, Harley captioned it “Call Me At (his phone number).”
His new YouTube Channel is filled with gaming videos. “It’s Black Friday so why not stream Madden Mobile?” reads one. “Watch me grind this game oof.” He is streaming Madden NFL games in the videos.
In contrast, his Instagram page has only 2 posts. Both are related to sports. “I am a YouTuber that makes thumbnails and intros for other give me some love on YouTube and hit me with a follow!” the profile reads.
On YouTube, he posted a video about a popular streamer Etika, whose real name is Daniel Desmond Amofah. Amofah had uploaded a video to YouTube entitled “I’m Sorry,” in which he’s walking outside in New York and saying what sounds like to many of fans, a final goodbye. His body was later found in the river. Harley’s video is hashtagged #prayforetika.
Two months ago, Harley commented on a Reddit thread called Madden Mobile youtubers?
Harley wrote on the thread, “Watch me my name is Harley Dilly 2.0.” Another user then wrote, “Hi trash.” He wrote, “How the f*ck you find me?” The other user responded, “I find anyone.” Harley wrote, “Except for me IRL.” The other user wrote, “I’m ready,” to which a second user added, “Y’all need to chill damn ??.” Months later, a person wrote, “Hey this kid went missing 11 days ago.” You can see his Reddit posts here.
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