Missing local teen found year later: ‘We always felt that he was fine’

Aug 29, 2018
Sugarcreek Twp. police say billboards showing missing teen Jacob Caldwell prompted a tipster to call police, which led to the boy being found in a home in Miami Twp. CONTRIBUTED

The 15-year-old who saw his father shot to death, then disappeared days after, was found more than a year later and less than 15 miles away in the basement of a house where four adults were living.

Jacob Lee Caldwell’s disappearance had set off a nationwide investigation that included the FBI and Sugarcreek Twp. police. Billboards reminding residents of Jacob’s disappearance went up earlier this month and reportedly helped in finding him.

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“He’s gone a year without school. He’s gone a year without socializing with friends,” Sugarcreek Twp. Police Chief Michael Brown said.

The chief said his department received a call on Monday from a female who said she had information about where to find Jacob.

Brown said the tip led to a search warrant being executed at a Miami Twp. home around 11:30 p.m. Monday.

“Four adults were inside, and we found Jacob in the basement. That appeared to be his primary area of sleeping,” Brown said.

The 15-year-old had not been seen since Aug. 21, 2017, six days after he witnessed the fatal shooting of his father, Robert Caldwell.

Jacob was taken to the Greene County Juvenile Detention Center, where he was being held on an unruly charge from a previous runaway incident in Beavercreek, Brown said.

Brown said the four adults — whose names were not released — are associates of the family of Jacob’s mother, Tawnney Caldwell, who is in jail facing a potential capital murder charge in Robert Caldwell’s death. Brown said two of the four adults provided useful information for the investigation.

Jacob’s case was a daily priority for the department, Brown said. The investigation involved daily contact with the FBI and two visits to Jacob’s grandmother’s home in Kentucky, he said.

“”We always felt that he was fine … We had a really strong feeling that it was a family member who was involved in him being missing,” Brown said.

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Jacob appeared OK physically and it did not appear that he was held against his will, Brown said.

“It was our understanding that he was not outside much,” Brown said. “There was no evidence of him being secured or locked in. I think he could have roamed throughout the house if he wished.”

Brown said they will pursue charges against the adults who may have helped Jacob disappear.

Surveillance video recorded the night Jacob disappeared showed the teen standing in front of a local Walmart, where he may have been picked up by someone in a pre-arranged meeting.

Sterling H. Roberts, 35, and Robert Caldwell’s ex-wife Tawnney Caldwell, 34, of Centerville, were indicted on charges of murder and may be eligible for the death penalty.

Roberts remains an inmate in Spartanburg, S.C., according to Murray Glenn, spokesman for the Seventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

Sterling Houston Roberts faces charges there of attempted murder, three counts of pointing and presenting a firearm and two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon. “The defendant is being held with no bond,” Glenn said.

Sterling Roberts allegedly shot at a deputy prior to his capture.

Glenn said it is not known when Roberts will be extradited to Ohio to face charges here.

The other four — Chance Deakin, 26; Christopher C. Roberts, 31; James T. Harmon, 56; and Chandra D. Harmon, 55 — all face lesser charges and have been released on bond.

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The co-defendants are being tried in U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio. A motion hearing is scheduled for next month, while the final pre-trial hearing is set in October and the jury trial is scheduled for November, according to court records.

On Tuesday, Juvenile Court Judge Adolfo Tornichio barred this news organization from attending a hearing in Jacob’s case.

”I’m just limiting the access to the media to the detention hearing. It sounds like there could be information that is sensitive and could be harmful to the child,” Tornichio said.

After the hearing, Lori Cicero, attorney for Jacob’s legal custodian Sally DeThomas, told this news organization she was not permitted to talk about what happened in the hearing.

“The court is ensuring that the child’s safety is of paramount importance in this matter,” Cicero said. “The family is overjoyed that he is safe and that his physical needs are going to be met in a secure environment. We are working in conjunction with the court to ensure that the child’s mental health needs are being addressed with the appropriate professionals.”

Cicero said the court’s decision on where Jacob will be housed, whether in the detention center or with family, is not being disclosed.

“There are very serious concerns for his safety. He was an eyewitness to a murder. Being a witness, there are inherent risks associated with that,” she said.