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Missing Taylor County girl found in Ritchie County

Posted: Friday, Feb 11th, 2011

Wind blows the freshly fallen snow, around the abandoned cellar house in Ritchie County where Sara Isner was found Tuesday evening. The cellar house had been converted into a hunting cabin with primitive facilities. Sara Isner, age 15, from Grafton, is back in the custody of her parents after having been reported missing on January 30, 2011. Isner was found in the company of 20-year-old Josh Duff, in Ritchie County Tuesday evening. Duff has been taken into custody to face criminal charges.

According to Lieutenant Dave Holcomb, of the Grafton Police Department, Sara Isner, age 15, from Taylor County is back in the custody of her parents. Isner was reported missing on January 30, and was believed to be in the company of 20-year-old Josh Duff of Nitro.

On Tuesday, February 8, around 7 p.m., members of the Ritchie County Sheriff’s Department, Ritchie County’s K9 Unit, and the West Virginia State Police found Isner and Duff.

Duff was placed into custody to face criminal charges, and Isner was returned to her parents.

Duff has been charged in Ritchie County for two counts of fleeing on foot, two counts of obstructing an officer, one count of trespassing and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is currently in the North Central Regional Jail with bail set at $11,000.

On Wednesday, February 9, Taylor County Magistrate Court issued an additional charge of felony kidnapping, along with the original charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

A copy of the criminal complaint, obtained by the Mountain Statesman, states the following:

Through investigation and statement, it has been determined that the defendant (Duff), who is 20 years of age, did enter the residence of the victim, Sara Isner, age 15, and forcibly removed her from that location.

He then transported her to Ritchie and Gilmer Counties in a stolen vehicle, where he concealed her and held her against her will.

Sara Isner was found by the Ritchie County State Police Detachment during the evening hours of February 8, 2011, where she had been concealed in a cellar house by the defendant.

According to West Virginia State Police sergeant James Stout, of the Ritchie County detachment, his office received a call on Tuesday evening from a passerby, who claimed to see someone matching Duff’s description walking on Route 47. Right after, a call was received by the 911 Center, claiming that Duff had brandished a knife on someone near the location where Duff and Isner were subsequently located.

West Virginia State Police Sergeant Okey Starsick, of the Calhoun County detachment happened to be in the area, and responded as well. After a search of the area, Duff was spotted near an abandoned cellar house that had been converted into a cabin.

Duff fled the area on foot after seeing the approaching officers. Sergeant Starsick pursued Duff on foot, while West Virginia State Police Trooper First Class (TFC) Jason Brewer secured Isner. TFC Brewer then joined Sergeant Starsick in pursuit of Duff through the woods, while Ritchie County Deputy Mike Kelly stayed at the vehicle with Isner shining lights to assist Brewer and Starsick.

A struggle ensued after Duff was caught, resulting in the use of pepper spray to get him to comply. During the chase, and struggle, TFC Brewer sustained an injury to his knee.

According to Sergeant Stout, Duff and Isner were staying in miserable conditions in the cellar house. It appeared that there had been no heat in the cellar house, and both Duff and Isner had not bathed during the nine-day ordeal.

“They were staying in miserable conditions,” stated Sergeant Stout. “It was cold, and cramped, and at least three to four inches of new snow had fallen over the past few days.”

Sergeant Stout credits the successful recovery of Isner to the cooperative dedication of all the departments involved.

“The Grafton Police Department was really pro-active with this,” Sergeant Stout explained. “The work they were doing there really helped to bring this to an end. This is an isolated area, we were lucky to get them.”

“The guys here did a good job, the conditions were terrible, and this ended as good as well as possible. We could not have done this without the assistance of the Ritchie County Sheriff’s Department.”

Both Isner and Duff are hearing impaired, and had attended the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney, West Virginia. Isner’s parents had, on Tuesday, offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to her recovery.

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