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Deputy demoted for mishandling report of missing teen

WAHPETON — A Richland County deputy was demoted to a corrections job after an internal investigation found he mishandled the report of a 15-year-old girl who was rescued from a ditch two days after she was reported missing.

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Richland County Sheriff Larry Leshovsky said Friday that Deputy Jerry Arneson failed to notify his supervisor after receiving a report March 14 that a 15-year-old girl was missing.

Leshovsky said Arneson went to Abercrombie, the girl’s hometown, to investigate her disappearance, and he concluded she ran away.

Departmental policy requires deputies to contact a supervisor any time a missing child is reported, and Arneson did not do that, the sheriff said.

When another deputy came on duty the next day, Leshovsky said, he contacted his supervisor, triggering a Code Red alert and a search for the missing girl.

She was discovered in a ditch north of Abercrombie on March 16.

The girl was taken to a Fargo hospital for medical attention, but has since been released, the sheriff said.

Leshovsky said Arneson, a 14-year veteran of the department, voluntarily resigned his position as a road deputy and was offered a different position in county corrections.

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