A Massachusetts police chief is defending how his department handled the missing person case of a Lawrence teenager who was found decapitated along a river last week.
Sixteen-year-old Lee Viloria-Paulino's headless body was found last Thursday along the Merrimack River, and police have charged his classmate, 15-year-old Mathew Borges, with first-degree murder.
However, Viloria-Paulino's family is upset it took so long for police to act after he was last seen on Nov. 18, saying they believed he was in danger from the start.
Lawrence Police Chief James Fitzpatrick says his department initially believed Paulino ran away. He also disagreed that it was the department's default approach to missing children and teenager cases.
"Based upon the circumstances handed to us at the beginning, did lead (the case) in that direction," he said.
Chief Fitzpatrick said that information in the beginning was a tip that Paulino had been sighted, which turned out to be false.
"As time went by, we grew more concerned, not initially, but as time went by, it went from a runaway to something more serious," he said.
Investigators from the Essex district attorney's office and state police joined Lawrence police's investigation 10 days after Paulino was reported missing.
Meanwhile, a vigil will be held in Paulino's honor Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. at the Lawrence Police Department.