A non-custodial mother who fled with her two children three years ago turned herself into police in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and her children, Hanna Lee, 10, and Skye Rex, 8, were placed in protective custody, Waynesboro police said today.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) was delighted to share the news Wednesday that the missing sisters were safe. NCMEC has worked closely with the girls’ father, John Rex, over the years in efforts to find them. The girls’ mother, Lashada Lee, was arraigned on two felony charges of interference with the custody of children, police said. They did not say what prompted her to surrender.
“I’m so grateful for everyone’s support in helping us get to this day,” said the girls’ father, John Rex, who asked NCMEC to share his statement. “Time froze three years ago when my beautiful girls were suddenly taken from my life. I’m overjoyed and now focusing on getting the girls back home with me. I ask for privacy at this time as we navigate the coming days. Thank you.”
His daughters were only 7 and 5 when they were taken by Lee on March 17, 2020 from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, police said. In September, 2022, forensic artists at NCMEC created new images of what the girls could look like today.
To generate more attention for their case, NCMEC worked alongside the television show, On Patrol: Live. The popular docuseries follows multiple law-enforcement agencies across the country and airs on the REELZ network. The segment is part of NCMEC’s ongoing partnership with the show where missing cases are introduced to the show’s dedicated audience known as “OP Nation.” The brand-new images for Hanna and Skye were released for the first time on the show.
“These age progression photos are so helpful in giving people a sense of what these girls may look like now,” said Dan Abrams, host of the show, as he encouraged viewers to call with any tips.
Rex has spent every moment of the past three years searching, hoping and waiting for his daughters to come home.
“They’re two of the sweetest and smartest little girls.” John told Adobe last November. “I hope and I pray that every day is the day that I get the phone call to come pick up my daughters.”
Police said in a press release that they received a phone call from Rex on March 20, 2020 reporting that the Washington County Maryland Circuit Court had granted an emergency modification custody order giving him primary custody of his daughters. He said he had last spoken with the children on March 15 via a video call.
Rex told officers that he had sent a message to Lee on March 18, 2020, letting her know that he had primary custody of the children until the final hearing was held. He told her that he’d be travelling from Florida and expected to arrive in the area on March 20, 2020. But when he arrived, no one was home, and Lee’s car was not in the parking lot.
The girls’ father knew that Lee had relatives in the Washington D.C. area and went there in an attempt to talk to them but was unsuccessful. He then called police to report them missing and presumed they were with their non-custodial mother.
“While we ask people to pay close attention to the new images of the girls, I want to remind everyone to focus on their mom,” Angeline Hartmann, Communications Director at NCMEC, said when the age progressions were released to the public. “Lashada Lee is likely hiding in plain sight and may be spotted out and about, with or without the girls.”
In addition to NCMEC, Waynesboro police said they were assisted by the U.S. Marshals Service, Franklin County DA investigators, Sheppard Consulting and multiple officers and agencies in the D.C. area.