MONTGOMERY, Minn. - Charges have been filed against a Le Sueur County woman and her parents after police say they reported a teen as missing when they knew where she was all along. The case took on a high profile when a well-known police chief wrote a heartfelt Facebook post asking the girl to come home.
Prosecutors say 35-year-old Tiffany Marie Lukes and her parents, 61-year-old Linda Lukes and 60-year-old Ronald Lukes, knew the teen was in Duluth, met with her several times and even took her out for ice cream while authorities pursued a missing persons case.
Criminal complaints filed against the three say Tiffany Lukes called Montgomery Police to report her 16-year-old daughter Audrey as missing on Feb. 22. Police say they repeatedly asked Tiffany Lukes for a picture to distribute to social media, but she did not provide one.
When police went to the family home on March 17, they met with Linda and Ronald Lukes, who provided a picture and spoke with officers. At that point the grandparents told police they had not seen Audrey for two or three weeks. Authorities now say that was not the case.
After obtaining the teen's cell phone number, investigators tracked her down in Duluth on March 23. Audrey Lukes told them that her mother and grandparents were all aware of her location, and that she had been in frequent contact with them during the time she was reported as missing. In fact, the teen said she had even returned to the family home in Montgomery at least two times to shower and get fresh clothing.
Police arranged a meeting with Tiffany, Linda and Ronald Lukes, and after being confronted with this information the defendants reportedly admitted they had given false information to Montgomery Police several times during the month-long search. That false information resulted in an extensive search and investigative work that cost several law enforcement agencies both time and money.
Making things worse, prosecutors say, was that Tiffany Lukes made several public pleas during this time for her daughter's safe return.
A handful of young people are reported as missing across the state of Minnesota every day, but the case of Audrey Lukes drew extensive media attention because of the heartfelt social media post it inspired a small town cop to write. Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander, whose heart-tugging Facebook musings have made the tiny department's page a must-read, wrote a letter to Audrey, who had been described by law enforcement in her community as a habitual runaway.
In the open post written to Audrey, Sjolander wrote:
You don't know me, but my name is Lee and I'm a police officer here in Kenyon. Officer Amy and I were told you could be in our town, so we've been looking for you because you're 15, you've been gone from home for a month and even though I don't know you, I'm worried about you.
I don't know your past and it doesn't matter to me. What matters is your safety and if you are running from something, it's not going away. You'll need to handle whatever it is and we are here to help if we can.
I'm a dad, so I worry about kids. I've got three and they are all older than you, they aren't perfect, nor am I, nor are you, and that's ok. We tell people around here that we can do a lot with a good heart, and a willingness to change, if this sounds like you, please call our office at 507-789-5214, or stop in. We are located at 709 2nd St. here in Kenyon.
Chief Sjolander has written about his tough upbringing and turbulent, violent family life as a child, describing how he ran away from home as a young teen.