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Teen escapes from group home

An Ironton father is looking for answers after his daughter escaped from the Lawrence County Juvenile Center.

James Hern said his daughter, Sierra Hern, has been missing from the group home since Aug. 3 and feels he is alone in trying to get her back.

“I don’t feel they are doing their job,” he said.

Hern said his 16-year-old daughter was sent to the facility on State Route 93 last Wednesday after continued problems in the family.

“I told them I could not control her,” Hern said.

At a hearing in probate court, Hern said he told Judge David Payne his daughter would try to escape.

“I told the judge, if there is an unlocked door or window or anything, she will run,” Hern said.

Hern said Sierra tried to escape the facility on Thursday but was unsuccessful. She made another attempt Friday and was able to flee the premises.

“I’ve been calling everyday to see if they located her,” Hern said.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said a warrant was issued for the juvenile.

“His daughter walked away from the group home and Judge Payne did issue a warrant for her,” Lawless said.

Because the warrant is for a misdemeanor, Lawless said there is little his deputies can do if the girl travels out the state. Hern said he suspects his daughter is in Ashland, Ky., with her boyfriend.

“Because it’s a misdemeanor, a law enforcement officer outside Ohio cannot act on it,” Lawless said.

Judge Payne could not speak specifically about the case because of privacy laws involving juveniles, but said there are measures in place when a juvenile leaves the group home.

“Immediately we have a policy in place that notifies law enforcement and parents,” Payne said. “Depending on the situation, there might be some other notification.”

Payne said the facility is not secured the same as a jail or prison.

“We have advanced security, but we don’t have locked doors and armed guards,” the judge said.

Payne also said the court and staff at the facility monitor the juveniles to determine if they would need to be placed in a locked facility such as the Ross or Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Centers.

“They should have sent her to Ross County in the first place,” Hern said. “… The probate court dropped the ball big time on this situation. I’ve been out there looking for her more than they have.”