Houston & Peach

Fort Valley State says student reported missing by mother left on own accord

Keyon Harris
Keyon Harris

Fort Valley State University has determined that an 18-year-old student reported missing by his mother left the campus on his own accord Monday morning.

Video from campus surveillance cameras shows Keyon Montreal La’trey Harris leaving the campus by himself with his belongings, said Cedric Mobley, special assistant to the president for strategic communication for the university.

“We are certainly sympathetic to the mother ... and any family members, and any students, or friends, or anybody who would love to know that he is safe because we want to know that as well,” Mobley said. “We will do everything that we can to aid in that as far as we can also protect the privacy rights of that adult student.”

A health and safety inquiry by campus police found that Harris “voluntarily and methodically packed his belongings and moved out of the residence hall” early Monday, according to a statement released by the university Thursday afternoon.

Harris left “only items which were university property or which could be used to trace his whereabouts,” the release said. Harris’ mother, Kishona Smith, said he left behind his iPhone, credit cards and student identification card.

Campus police talked with students, staff and faculty members and reviewed surveillance video, the release said.

“Local law enforcement agencies, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI have been engaged should those agencies determine that this rises above a privacy matter and instead be considered a criminal matter based on occurrences outside of the jurisdiction of the university,” the statement said.

Neither Fort Valley police nor the GBI are investigating, agency officials said.

Fort Valley police declined to take a missing person’s report from Smith, which Public Safety Director Lawrence Spurgeon said would duplicate the inquiry of campus police.

GBI special agent J.T. Ricketson said his office has provided guidance to campus police but is not investigating. A FBI spokesman in Atlanta declined comment by email late Thursday afternoon.

Smith said her son reached out on Snapchat, a social media app, to his sister and to a friend on Thursday afternoon. Harris said he was safe and where he wanted to be, Smith said. The Snapchat location placed Harris in Miamisburg, Ohio, on Thursday afternoon.

Then, Smith’s sister, Sharie Harris, received a text from an unidentified man with a threatening demand for $1,300 for Keyon Harris’ safe return, “or the next time you see him, he’ll be dead,” Smith said.

Smith’s sister had received previous texts from the Lakewood, Ohio, number seeking money for Keyon Harris’ safe return and that an FBI agent previously interviewed her sister about the texts, Smith said. A man on the voicemail message identified himself as “Mr. Ray.”

Smith said her son’s cellphone records that she received from Verizon on Thurday show that he communicated by text to that same telephone number 10 times on Sept. 30 and once on Sunday. She said she believes that her son met the man through an app.

“I think that my son went with this man willingly but now this man wants money and my son doesn’t even know that his life is in danger,” Smith said.

Smith said she’s convinced that her son is not a part of an attempt to get money from her sister. Smith noted that he could have gotten a $1,200 cash advance from the credit cards and $400 from the bank.

Smith posted on Facebook Tuesday night that she’s offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of her son. She said she last talked with her son, a freshman studying psychology, on Sunday through Facetime.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser