A 14-year-old Indiana boy has now been missing for one week after authorities say he apparently ran away when his parents made him wear a T-shirt branding him "a liar" and a "cheat."
Scottie Morris went missing March 16 at about 8:30 p.m., the Eaton Police Department said. He had been forced to wear a white shirt with "I'm a liar" and the word "cheat" scrawled in black marker as a "disturbing" form of punishment, the police chief said Wednesday.
"The shirt, it was kind of unorthodox. It was disturbing. And we’re looking into that," said Chief Jay Turnerearlier this week. The boy is considered in danger because he was wearing only the T-shirt, shorts and shoes when he left home, authorities said. Nighttemperatures have hovered in the 30s and 40s.
Turner told a local station the boy's parents were "heartbroken," and asked for privacy after social media erupted with criticism of their punishment method and conspiracy theories involving his disappearance went viral.
"They were beat up pretty bad on social media, and right now, they’ve cooperated the entire time with us," Turner said. The parents were given polygraph tests, police said, but the results were not released, nor was a reason for the procedures.
The Eaton Police Department had initially released a photo of the boy wearing the T-shirt, but removed it after receiving a backlash of complaints, Turner said.
In the image, which police said was provided by his parents, the teen looks distraught and appears to be on the verge of crying. A cropped photo of Scottie Morris, showing only his face, was reposted.
“We are very sorry the post seemed as if we were trying to shame him, as that would NEVER be our intent,” the police department said in a statement.
Turner said rescue teams have scoured the town, located outside Muncie, with helicopters, boats, infra-red imagingand canine teams. They were unable to turn up any leads, but continue to hope, police said.
The department is being helped byIndiana State Police, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Eaton Police Department at 765-396-3297.
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