Wayne County News

EXCLUSIVE: Family of missing teen speaks, say they feel 'dead inside'

PIKEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) - A local family is desperate for answers after their 15-year-old daughter disappeared in the middle of the night.

UPDATE: ID of 'person of interest' sought in missing teen's case, Wayne County officials say

Mother McKinsey Harper described these last few days as a nightmare she wishes she can wake up from.

"I feel so dead inside. I just want my baby home," she said. "When you're so used to hearing her laugh, or tell some crazy joke, or fuss with her sisters and brothers, we just need her home."

She and her husband, Joe, are now looking for their daughter, Ashanti Harper.

"She likes to cook, clean, babysit, she does all of that," she said. "She's just a happy person."

UPDATE: ID of 'person of interest' sought in missing teen's case, Wayne County officials say

Ashanti had been staying at her aunt Lawanda Warren's Pikeville home for the past few weeks.

That was until this past Sunday morning when Warren noticed something out of the ordinary.


"When I first saw the window up, my heart kind of dropped," Warren recalled. "I went back into the room where I had seen the window up. The first thing I did, I looked around, and I called her out. I called out her name. I looked down, and I noticed the bag that she kept her clothes in was gone."

She and others believing her niece ran away around 2 a.m. Sunday, leaving no trace behind.

"Me and my daughter, we were close," Ashanti's father, Joe Harper said. "We pick at each other every day. Just typical go back and forth. It's not right if I don't have her here to pick back and forth with. She made me mad, I made her mad, then at the end of the night, she's trying to kiss me. I need my little girl."

This type of behavior, both Warren and her sister said, they'd never imagine with Ashanti.

UPDATE: ID of 'person of interest' sought in missing teen's case, Wayne County officials say

"(There's) nothing dramatic or insane about her," Warren said. "She's the average happy, go-lucky teenager."

Family members also said Ashanti had been communicating with a man on Instagram who told her he was 17-years-old.

They believe this could've led her to leave home.

"I think someone got into her head, and just coached her on doing things that she knew she wasn't supposed to do," McKinsey Harper said.

"I've watched the TV shows where these people manipulate these children out of the house on social media," Warren said.

But Harper and Warren are hoping to see Ashanti again soon.

"There's no mountain too high that we won't climb to get you," Warren said. "There's no deed that you've done too dirty that we can't clean you up."

Ashanti's family said they'll welcome her with open arms.

"All of our doors are always open for her," McKinsey Harper said. "We just want her home."

"Call home and let us know she's alright, that nobody ain't doing nothing crazy to her. That she's OK," Ashanti's uncle, Jerry Warren said. "That will, at least, let a little pressure off of us. We love her and we miss her."

Wayne County Sheriff's Officials do believe the person Ashanti had been communicating with through Instagram is a person of interest.

His name is unknown at this time.

The only other description is he's said to have lots of tattoos.

As for Harper, investigators said she was last seen wearing a pink coat and dark pants.

She has a phone, but is not able to make calls. She can only connect through WI-FI.

Officials said her Instagram and Snapchat accounts have been closed or restricted.

If you recognize Ashanti or know where she might be, you're asked to call the Wayne County Sheriff's Office at 919-731-1480. 

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