UPDATE: Police: Stepfather strangled missing teen

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2013 8:44 am

EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — Police believe that “runaway” Chyenne Kircher might have never actually left home at all.

Her stepfather, Terry Abbas, 40, of East Dubuque, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of killing the then-14-year-old in October 2011. Dozens of officers from multiple law enforcement agencies spent today scouring the area around the family’s home for evidence.

“We have reason to believe that her body is located at a location right in town by her home,” said Dave Hachmeister, chief deputy with the Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Department. “We are at this point doing some excavation with Illinois State Police and FBI evidence technicians.”

According to court documents, Abbas used his hand to strangle Kircher on or around Oct. 13, 2011, the date she was reported missing. Both murder charges are for Kircher’s death, Hachmeister said.

Abbas is being held in Jo Daviess County jail on a $1 million bond. Right now, he is the focus of the investigation into Kircher’s death, police said.

Police did not comment on a possible motive.

Police with dogs searched the family’s home, then shared by Abbas, Kircher, her brother and her mother, Lori Lyons, and the surrounding wooded area when the disappearance was first reported, but the case consistently has been treated as a missing person investigation. Even as recently as June of this year, authorities said no indications of foul play had been discovered.

“We had no information that it was anything other than a runaway,” Hachmeister said.

A note left behind seemed to support the theory, with Kircher allegedly writing, “Don’t look for me because I don’t want to be found.” Police initially said she was last seen walking toward a friend’s house.

But Hachmeister said Thursday the information about Kircher’s last-known whereabouts was provided by Abbas. Hachmeister would not confirm the authenticity of the note, citing the ongoing investigation, but said that it is “accounted for.”

The Jo Daviess County Critical Incident Response Team took over the case about six months ago at the request of the East Dubuque Police Department. The team, which includes officers from multiple county law enforcement agencies and the state police, came in with “fresh eyes,” Hachmeister said.

“We had an open mind from the beginning,” he said. “We didn’t treat it as merely a runaway from the very beginning. We had fresh eyes looking at it, looking at all aspects of what had taken place.”

Hachmeister declined to comment on the details, but he said Abbas did not turn himself in and that the arrest was the result of the CIRT investigation.

The search is being concentrated on a wooded area behind the home, where Abbas and Lyons still live. Calls to a phone number for Lyons seeking comment on the case went unanswered Thursday.

FBI agent Andrea Dobranski said the excavation process used to recover the body is rather time-consuming and labor-intensive.

“Part of the reason it’s taking so long is because it’s very methodical, painstaking work,” she said. “We want to make sure that we do it thoroughly, properly and cover all of our policies and procedures.

“These things can take a lot of time to do them right.”

More information is expected to be released at a press conference at 8 a.m. today.

Kircher’s disappearance rocked the small community. In the weeks and months following Kircher’s disappearance, family members and friends publicly pleaded for information about her whereabouts.

Students at East Dubuque High School, where Kircher was in ninth grade at the time she went missing, organized a balloon release at the end of the 2012 school year in honor of her. The 200-plus yellow balloons symbolized hope for missing children, classmates said at the time

For East Dubuque resident Kathy Accola, Thursday’s news was “sickening.” Had she not vanished, Kircher would be a junior in high school alongside Accola’s youngest son.

“It just makes us all sick,” Accola said. “There’s just no words to explain how we all feel.”

Though Abbas’ arrest will likely bring some closure, Accola said, the entire community will be in mourning.

“Chyenne was part of everybody’s life,” Accola said. “She was just a very social little girl. Everybody reached out to her, and she reached out to everybody.”

TH staff writers Erin Murphy, Alicia Yager and Mary Nevans-Pederson contributed

UPDATE

Bail for Terry Abbas, 40, of East Dubuque, Ill., has been set at $1 million. Abbas is in custody in the county jail.

The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department said there is no further information at 4 p.m. press conference due to the "methodical, painstaking work." The department said it will release more information at 8 a.m. Friday.

UPDATE

Police believe that “runaway” Chyenne Kircher might have never actually left home at all.

Her stepfather, Terry Abbas, 40, of East Dubuque, Ill., was charged with two counts of first-degree murder earlier today for allegedly killing the teenager in October 2011. Dozens of officers from multiple law enforcement agencies are scouring the area around Abbas’ home, searching for evidence.

“We have reason to believe that her body is located at a location right in town by her home,” said Dave Hachmeister, chief deputy with the Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Department. “We are at this point doing some excavation will Illinois State Police and FBI evidence technicians.”

According to a criminal complaint, Abbas used his hand to strangle Kircher, then 14, to death on or around Oct. 13, 2011, the date she was reported missing. Both murder charges are related to Kircher’s death, Hachmeister said.

The search is being concentrated on a wooded area behind the home once shared by Abbas, Kircher and Kircher’s mother, Lori Lyons. A Jo Daviess County investigator said excavation work is underway approximately 100 yards behind the building, which is located directly across from East Dubuque Elementary School.

Since it was first reported nearly two years ago, police have consistently treated the case as a missing person investigation. Authorities said as recently as June of this year that no indications of foul play had been discovered.

“(East Dubuque Police) had an extensive investigation that did not show any unusual circumstances,” Hachmeister said.

Reports after she was first declared missing suggested that Kircher was last seen en route to a friend’s house. She allegedly left a note behind, saying, “Don’t look for me because I don’t want to be found.”

Bullying was originally cited as a possible reason Kircher left home. But Hachmeister said today that she likely never ran away at all.

The Jo Daviess County Critical Incident Response Team took over the investigation about six months ago. Hachmeister declined to comment on the details, but he said Abbas did not turn himself in and that the arrest was the result of the CIRT investigation.

UPDATE

The department plans another press conference at 4 p.m. It believes the excavation of the body will be complete at that time.

UPDATE

The department says it believes Kircher was never a runaway case.

UPDATE

The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department has confirmed Terry L. Abbas, 40, is charged with the murder of Chyenne Kircher.

The department says Kircher's body is believed to be near Abbas' home at 480 Wisconsin Ave., in a wooded area.

The department states a lack of information at the 2 p.m. press conference is caused by a "delay at the crime scene." The department will "do more in a couple hours."

UPDATE

An East Dubuque man has been charged with two counts of murder, and police continue searching his home this afternoon in connection with a missing person case.

Terry L. Abbas, 40, was charged today with two counts of first-degree murder, but both are related to a single death “on or about” Oct. 13, 2011. According to a criminal complaint, Abbas strangled a minor, referred to only as C.K., with his hand “with the intent to kill,” causing C.K.’s death.

The date provided in the complaint is the same date Chyenne Kircher, of East Dubuque, then 14, went missing. Police have declined to confirm that link, but Abbas and Chyenne’s mother, Laura Lyons, were married in 2005, Dubuque County records show, and Abbas’ address, 480 Wisconsin Ave., was the home of Lyons at the time Chyenne went missing.

The home has been the focus of police activity since Wednesday afternoon.

More than a dozen cars have been parked at the home at points today, and one official at the scene said efforts were focused on the backyard. Among agencies on site are FBI and state police.

Police will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. in connection with the missing person case, according to a press release.

UPDATE

A criminal complaint says Terry L. Abbas, 40, strangled a minor, referred to only as C.K., with his hand "with the intent to kill."

UPDATE

EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. -- An East Dubuque man has been charged with two counts of murder.

Charges were filed this morning in Jo Daviess County Circuit Court against Terry Abbas, 40. He is in custody.

The murder offenses were dated Oct. 13, 2011, the same date Chyenne Kircher of East Dubuque, then 14, went missing. Abbas' address, 480 Wisconsin Ave., was the home of Chyenne's mother at the time Chyenne went missing. The home has been the focus of police activity since Wednesday afternoon.

More than a dozen cars are parked at the home now, and one official at the scene said efforts were focused on the backyard. Among agencies on site are FBI and state police.

Police announced a 2 p.m. press conference on the case.

UPDATE

East Dubuque Police and Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department deputies were parked at 480 Wisconsin Ave., East Dubuque, Ill., this morning.

As of November 2011, about a month after the disappearance of Chyenne Kircher, then 14, the house was occupied by the missing teen's mother, Lori Lyons. It is unclear whether Lyons still lives in the home.

PREVIOUS STORY

The investigation into the disappearance of an East Dubuque teenager missing for nearly two years is "ongoing," police said late Wednesday night.

When contacted again early this morning, East Dubuque police said only that a press release would be issued later in the day. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department referred all questions to the East Dubuque police.

Those responses come after a report that an arrest has been made in the case of Chyenne Kircher, then 14, who was last seen going to a friend's house after school Oct. 13, 2011.

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