Burned bones found in rural Missouri identified as teen's - KCTV5

Burned bones found in rural Missouri identified as teen's

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Savannah Leckie, who was raised by her adoptive mother in Minnesota, was reported missing in late July by her biological mother from their home in Longrun, where the woman's then-boyfriend also lived. (www.missingkids.com) Savannah Leckie, who was raised by her adoptive mother in Minnesota, was reported missing in late July by her biological mother from their home in Longrun, where the woman's then-boyfriend also lived. (www.missingkids.com)
KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) -

Burned bones found on a rural southwest Missouri property are those of a 16-year-old girl who recently disappeared from the nearby home of her biological mother, who is now jailed on a 24-hour investigative hold, authorities said Tuesday.

Savannah Leckie, who was raised by her adoptive mother in Minnesota, was reported missing in late July by her biological mother from their home in Longrun, where the woman's then-boyfriend also lived. Items found during multiple searches of the property included a meat grinder, teeth, a knife and 26 bottles of lye, which can be used to accelerate the breakdown of bodily tissue, according to court documents.

Human bone fragments were found in a field about 400 yards (366 meters) from the home on Aug. 4, the same day the woman and her boyfriend wed, according to investigators.

Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed said a forensic analysis was used to identify the remains as Savannah's.

"This is not the outcome that we were hoping and praying for," the girl's adoptive mother, Tamile Leckie-Montague, said Tuesday.

Reed also said Tuesday that the investigation had "intensified" and that arrests were expected. The jail administrator in Ozark County said the biological mother was taken into custody Monday but not arrested. No charges had been filed as of Tuesday afternoon against her or her husband.

The public defender's office in a nearby county was meeting with the woman. The office didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment on Tuesday.

Leckie-Montague told investigators she relinquished the girl for adoption when she was born and that Savannah spent most of her life in Minnesota. Affidavits filed in support of search warrants describe Savannah as having high-functioning autism.

In November 2016, Leckie-Montague asked the birth mother to take Savannah because the girl couldn't get along with her new boyfriend. The birth mother agreed and was given power of attorney. After the girl moved to Missouri, she was home schooled and had "almost no social contacts," according to the affidavit.

The biological mother's ex-boyfriend, Buddy Smart, told investigators he had seen her discipline Savannah by "forcing her to crawl through a hog pen." He said the girl was forced to bathe in a pond, according to the affidavit.

The woman acknowledged that was true, according to the affidavit. She also told investigators that when Savannah cut her arm "in a suicidal gesture" that she forced the girl to scrub the wound with alcohol and salt every day as punishment.

Leckie-Montague's fiancé, Cary Steeves, told Minneapolis television station KSTP-TV that Savannah "needed a lot of one on one focus and the farm just seemed like a really good place for her at the moment." Her adoptive mother last spoke with Savannah on the teen's 16th birthday June 3, and there was "nothing like big, red flags" suggesting anything amiss, Steeves told the Star-Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis.

Investigators searched the property three times in early August. Other items recovered included about 20 boxes of bone fragments, a box of girl's clothing, and notebooks, according to search warrants filed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Ozark County investigators.

During a search on Aug. 4, two search dogs alerted investigators to a burn pile on the property that appeared to be newly covered with fresh leaves, branches and other debris. Investigators sifted through ash from the pile and found several objects that appeared to be bone fragments, including what appeared to be a human finger and a vertebra, according to the court documents.

The property, spanning about 81 acres, includes vacant outbuildings and structures, and several inoperative vehicles and campers. It is described in the affidavit as isolated and at least 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the nearest paved road.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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