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Who is the woman accused of abandoning her daughter?

12:33 AM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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Leah Neely, Gabriel Duran Cumberland County Jail

It's a crime that few parents can imagine: abandoning your four-year-old child in a foreign country.

That's what Leah Neely is accused of doing three years ago. She fled Cumberland County with her boyfriend Gabriel Duran. They took young Macy Neely with them.

Macy is back home safe and sound now.

Read Macy's story here.

But for the past three years she was a ward of the Mexican government and living in an orphanage in Guadalajara. Mexican authorities found her when she was four, living in a house by herself with only her dog. Her grandmother discovered she was there there nine months ago.

With the help of Crossville's House of Hope and donations from the community, she rescued Macy three weeks ago.

Neely and Duran both have a long history with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff himself remembers them well.

"They're frequent flyers with us," said Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess.

Neely visited the Cumberland County jail more than 40 times in eight years. Her boyfriend wasn't far behind her.

Sheriff Burgess said their list of charges ranges from DUIs to theft, but like most of the people in his jail, their problem stemmed from drugs. He recalls a time when he reached out to help her.

"She was getting out for some drug charges and I explained to her there were some things we had in place that we could help her with. She didn't care.  She didn't need any help," he said.

Sheriff Burgess said they both have outstanding warrants.  Neely has nine in all. Both also made the top 10 most wanted. But in 2008, they disappeared.

"We didn't have any luck finding them here locally and they didn't turn up in any of the jails in Tennessee," said Burgess.

That's when they are believed to have have fled to Mexico with Macy. It's something that didn't surprise Sheriff Burgess.

"At the rate they're going and I've not talked with them since they took off to Mexico but I don't think that's a place they went seeking rehab or anything like that," he said.

If they ever try to come back, Sheriff Burgess says he will make sure one thing happens, "They're going to jail. For as long as we can keep them."

But he said he hopes they never return. "I'd as soon see them stay in Mexico. Leave the little girl alone let her have a life."

He believes Macy will have a better life at home with her grandmother.

The sheriff says to his knowledge if Neely returns-- she would not be able to get custody of Macy. He says he will do everything in his power to make sure that doesn't happen. They will also face additional charges for fleeing the country.

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