By Kevin Lyons
WOODSTOCK – Prosecutors and police said they hope that a Harvard teenager’s conviction for harboring a runaway will help them find a missing 16-year-old girl.
Amelia Merida, of Harvard, has been missing for more than a year.
Harvard police believe that she may still be somewhere in the area or could have left for Mexico.
McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Vonau said police still are talking to people in the Harvard area who may know her whereabouts and cautioned those who are not cooperating with authorities.
“We’re hoping that young people who were involved realize how serious this is that after a trail Tuesday, McHenry County Judge Thomas Baker found Judas David Leandro, 19, of Harvard, guilty of harboring Merida in fall 2002.
Vonau said Leandro sent Merida, whom he knew to be a runaway, to stay at his sister’s home in the Rockford area for 10 days.
“His sister needed help baby – sitting, so he decided to hide her out there for a while,” Vonau said.
Harvard police also still are looking for Jorge Jimenez, 18, of Harvard, who also was charged with harboring a runaway and resisting an officer in connection with Merida’s case.
Jimenez has failed to appear in court on the charges, and a warrant was issued for his arrest in December. Investigators suspect Jimenez may be with Merida or at least knows where she is.
Prosecutors said Leandro chose not to testify in his own behalf, but said they hope his conviction will make others who were trying to protect him more likely to cooperate with authorities.
“The investigation continues. We are investigating other individuals that he worked with,” Vonau said.
“Anyone with information about where (Merida) is should tell (Harvard) police, and tell her to contact her home. We just want to make sure she is safe.”
Harboring a runaway is a misdemeanor offense that carries a penalty of up to one year in the McHenry County Jail. Leandro is scheduled for sentencing Dec.18.