Saturday, February 3, 2007

FOUND SAFE: Sara Herbay

Exciting news! I guess this just happened yesterday.
Story from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Girl found with mother's ex-boyfriend
By Jill King Greenwood
Saturday, February 3, 2007
A 16-year-old girl who disappeared from her
Sharpsburg home in October was in the custody of child welfare officials Friday
after being found living with her mother's ex-boyfriend in West Mifflin, police
Sara Ann Herbay, who ran away from home Oct. 9 and was reported
missing a day later, was found about 6 a.m. yesterday when Allegheny County
Sheriff's deputies, investigators with the District Attorney's office and West
Mifflin police raided the Jane Street home of John Leroy Keller.
Sara was
not injured and had been living in a room in a finished basement.
"She was
in tears. She cried the entire time she was with us," said sheriff's Sgt.
Michael Scherbanic.
Police charged Keller, 32, with concealing the
whereabouts of a child and interfering with child custody. He was arraigned
yesterday morning and is being held in the county jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.
Investigators started looking for Keller in June, about four months before
Sara's disappearance, because he was wanted on three counts of failure to pay
child support.
"He was very elusive. We searched everywhere and could not
find him," Scherbanic said.
Shortly after Sara disappeared, police
interviewed her mother, Eleanore Donofrio-Herbay, of Allentown, and her father,
Michael Herbay, of Sharpsburg, and suspected that Keller was involved in Sara's
On Oct. 17, a week after Michael Herbay reported his daughter
missing, he filed an emergency custody petition in Allegheny County Family Court
requesting an "immediate change of custody." He alleged in the petition that it
recently had been discovered that Sara "has been having an intimate
relationship" with Keller, who was then her mother's live-in boyfriend.
Common Pleas judge then ordered that Donofrio-Herbay risked losing all custody
rights if she allowed Keller near her daughter.
Police last week tracked
Keller to a Lawrenceville body shop where he worked. They arrested him on the
three outstanding warrants for child support and questioned him about Sara's
disappearance. He said he hadn't seen her since early December, said sheriff's
Detective Jay Stegena. Keller was jailed for 48 hours on the child support
charges and freed Sunday after posting $5,000 bond.
Police, believing Sara
was with Keller since her disappearance, got several new leads this week that
led them to the Jane Street address.
"It appears she willingly went with him
and could have left at any point, but it's hard to say what she was thinking or
what she went through because she's only 16. He is twice her age," Scherbanic
said. "It's easy to manipulate and coerce or even brainwash a child that is only
16, but something must have been really bad at either of her homes to make her
think going with this guy was going to be better."
An adult female relative
of Keller's and four other relatives between the ages of 16 and 20 were living
in the Jane Street home as well.
"Part of our investigation is finding out
why they didn't report her being there or what, if any, involvement they had,"
Scherbanic said.
Neighbors on Jane Street said they didn't know Keller and
hadn't seen Sara in the area. Donofrio-Herbay declined to comment when she
answered the door at her Allentown home. No one answered the door at Michael
Herbay's home yesterday afternoon, and a man at Priority 1 Auto Service, where
Keller was working, declined to identify himself or comment on Keller's arrest.
Sara was placed in the custody of the county Office of Children, Youth and
Families. Keller is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.
"She's safe for now," Scherbanic said. "Over 27 years of doing this job,
there are a lot of aspects of it that I have grown to despise, but finding this
girl this morning felt pretty good."
Jill King Greenwood can be reached at or

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