Missing Teen Located in Lake County, Man Charged with Helping Her Avoid Detection
LEESBURG – A 17-year-old girl who disappeared while walking to church last month has been recovered, but not before taking extreme measures to conceal her whereabouts, along with the help of an adult accomplice.
On May 2nd, family reported Melaina Hardy missing, after she failed to show up for a Wednesday evening church service in Brooksville. Hardy left without her medication, money, clothing, or even her purse, according to one of many posts on social media.
Investigators with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office believed she may have fled to Springhill or St. Petersburg, but it was later determined that Hardy had been staying at a residence in Lake County, with 19-year-old Gregory Allen Mancuso.
Officials learned of Hardy’s whereabouts after she and Mancuso were caught shoplifting at an area Rural King store on June 3rd.
During an interview with Hardy on June 4th, she advised that Mancuso picked her up in Brooksville and then fled to his house in Leesburg, where she stayed the entire month. She also claims that Mancuso helped her conceal her whereabouts, by changing her hair color, smashing her phone, and deactivating social media sites.
Mancuso told Detectives that Hardy wanted to leave because she was being abused at home. Mancuso even researched the internet, in an effort to learn how to go undetected. He was fully aware that authorities were looking for her, say officials.
Mancuso is charged with 1-count of interference with Child Custody and he remains behind bars in Hernando County on a $500 bond.
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