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Search for missing 12-year-old girl suspended as night falls

Gwinnett County Police Department Public Information Officer Cpl. Edwin Ritter talks with the media about 12-year-old Kelsie Lee who has been missing since 8:45 a.m. on Monday in Peachtree Corners.


Natalie Banathy and her two children Thurston, 5, and Heather, 1, talk with a Gwinnett County Police officer and another woman outside the home of 12-year-old Kelsie Lee in Peachtree Corners Monday. Banathy is a neighbor of the Lee’s and came to see if she could assist in the search for Kelsie who has been missing since 8:45 a.m. Monday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Natalie Banathy and her two children Thurston, 5, and Heather, 1, talk with a Gwinnett County Police officer and another woman outside the home of 12-year-old Kelsie Lee in Peachtree Corners Monday. Banathy is a neighbor of the Lee’s and came to see if she could assist in the search for Kelsie who has been missing since 8:45 a.m. Monday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Kelsie Lee

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A law enforcement officer removes a backpack from the home of 12-year-old Kelsie Lee in Peachtree Corners on Monday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Gwinnett County Police officers depart on motorcycles to search for 12-year-old Kelsie Lee in Peachtree Corners. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Family, friends and neighbors stand outside the home of 12-year-old Kelsie Lee in Peachtree Corners on Monday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Heather Moran, right, writes a description of 12-year-old Kelsie Lee on a piece of paper so others can assist with the search for Lee on Monday in Peachtree Corners. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

PEACHTREE CORNERS — For about 11 hours Monday, Gwinnett County police, volunteers and other agencies searched for 12-year-old Kelsie Lee. For about 11 hours, their efforts were fruitless.

Lee was reported missing at about 8:45 a.m. Monday after her mother returned to the family's home at 4650 Jones Bridge Circle. It’s believed that Lee’s mother asked her to take the garbage out while she drove her son to school, and the girl's sister told police that she did so but never came back inside.

Authorities launched a full-scale search for most of the day Monday, bringing it to an end when it got dark around 8 p.m.

"If the investigation leads us to a particular area that requires a search we will do it," Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter said. "As of now, we've exhausted all leads and searched the immediate area and have called off the search for the night."

Lee is described as about 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds with blue eyes and long, curly brown hair. She was last seen wearing blue jeans and a black sweater with a “white and gold zigzag pattern,” and may have had a large black backpack with her.

The belief is Lee likely ran away, but police aren't saying what may have led to the girl's disappearance — and aren't ruling anything out.

“We’re not sure if she ran away,” Ritter said, “or if she’s with somebody else right now.”

Gwinnett County police set up a command station at Simpsonwood United Methodist Church, about a quarter-mile from the Lees’ home. The department’s mobile operations center, helicopter, motorcycle unit and dozens of other police officers searched the area. Department recruits, set to graduate from the academy this week, went door-to-door.

Members of the Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation also volunteered to help search the heavily wooded area not far from the Chattahoochee River.

The search radius was about two miles “and further if it needed to be,” Ritter said. Police also used two reverse 911 calls to contact residents in the area.

Connie Lussier was one of about two dozen volunteers that dispersed from Simpsonwood around lunchtime, helping authorities by canvassing the surrounding neighborhoods and going door-to-door to see if anyone had seen anything. She said the reason behind the group’s participation was simple.

“We have kids,” she said.

Early Monday evening, Tissy Jones brought her two children — including a 12-year-old son belived to attend nearby Pinckneyville Middle School with Lee — to join the search effort. She echoed Lussier’s thoughts.

“I’m just a mom,” Jones said. “I think if you’re a mom you feel like you have to do something.”

Anyone with information on the location of Kelsie Lee is urged to call 911 or contact the Gwinnett County Police Department at 770-513-5300.

The active investigation will continue Tuesday.

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Missing Peachtree Corners girl

Gwinnett County Police Department Public Information Officer Cpl. Edwin Ritter talks with the media about 12-year-old Kelsie Lee who has been missing since 8:45 a.m. on Monday in Peachtree Corners.

Gwinnett County Police Department Public Information Officer Cpl. Edwin Ritter talks with the media about 12-year-old Kelsie Lee who has been missing since 8:45 a.m. on Monday in Peachtree Corners.

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Location of Kelsie Lee's home

Location of Kelsie Lee's home