Missing Marion Heights teen found
MOUNT CARMEL - Mount Carmel Township Police Chief Brian Hollenbush used a bit of trickery to be sure missing teen Mackenzie Greco was coming with him when the chief got close to the boy in the woods Wednesday afternoon following two days of searching.
According to Hollenbush, police received a phone call from a person on vacation and learned that Greco, 17, of Marion Heights, was spotted at the caller's house by the home's caretaker near Varano's Warehouse, the same general area along West Seventh Street where the search was conducted Tuesday and earlier Wednesday. Before police got to the house, Greco left and ran into the nearby woods.
Hollenbush made contact with the teen a few blocks west near the defunct Lapinski Lumber at 4:10 p.m. Hollenbush said he was talking to Greco and trying to convince him not to take off again. Greco said he wanted to talk to a friend first, and the chief pretended to dial the friend's number. When Greco reached for Hollenbush's phone, the chief grabbed the teen by the arm. Greco didn't resist and the incident was over.
Hollenbush said Greco was led out of the woods, where his father greeted him with a hug. From there, the teen was taken to the Mount Carmel police station.
He has a couple of scrapes and bruises, but is otherwise OK, Hollenbush said Wednesday evening.
A representative of the county mental health department was called to the station. An AREA Services ambulance was also present. Police said Greco was expected to be sent to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, for evaluation. Greco was in the ambulance at the station as of about 4:45 p.m.
Greco had reportedly left a message with a friend Monday evening that he was "going to find a quiet place to think."
Hollenbush said he hadn't had a chance to talk to Greco about why he didn't return home Monday night and why he tried to avoid searchers.
"He wasn't talking much when I had him in custody or at the station," Hollenbush said. "All he asked for was one of his friends."
Spotted by deliver man
Greco went jogging about 7:30 p.m. Monday and didn't return to his 440 Clermont St. home that evening. His parents reported him missing at 12:30 a.m. A search during daylight hours Tuesday of the woods in most of Mount Carmel Township didn't produce any results, but police did not plan to resume the search Wednesday.
However, Greco was spotted by a delivery truck driver at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday outside Varano's. The driver, James Perry, of Pottsville, who was aware of a missing teenager, spoke to him. Perry told police the teen identified himself as "Kevin" and that he was 16 years old, adding that the teen said he was waiting for a friend.
The teen's behavior was weird, Perry told police. Kevin Varano, of Varano's, called 911 after the teen bolted back into the woods south of the dead end at Poplar Street.
Patrolman Brian Carnuccio, Mount Carmel Township Police, displayed a photo of Greco on his cell phone, to which Perry said he was "100 percent sure" it matched the teen he encountered.
By 10:45 a.m., authorities were gathering at the scene to try to "flush him out." Three police officers and a handful of volunteers walked for hours in a large section of woods between West Seventh Street and Route 901. Others took to trucks to drive through the area. The township's all-terrain vehicle was also used, and a state police helicopter was called in to view the scene from above.
Greco's father, Tony, was on scene with relatives and also walked the woods to search for his son.
'Place to think'
Greco is a member of Mount Carmel Area's track and field and cross country teams. He is also a member of a local Boy Scout troop, having participated in a Flag Day ceremony Friday evening in Mount Carmel. Friends described him during Tuesday's search as outgoing and a "great friend."
Authorities and volunteers searched for him all day Tuesday and nearly six hours Wednesday after he was reported missing and endangered.
Hollenbush said Wednesday evening that he hoped that anyone thinking of running away would realize the impact the situation has on others.
"You have to realize that you are putting the rescue workers at risk, you are putting family members at risk because they went out last night after we called off the search," the chief said.
Hollenbush is relieved the situation ended the way it did.
"I'm glad he is safe and getting the proper care," Hollenbush said.
Assisting were Mount Carmel Borough Police Chief Todd Owens and Patrolman Jason Drumheller, Kulpmont Police Chief Rick Wilson, state police at Stonington and volunteers from the township and borough.