USMS, Fayetteville Police Department, ATF, Harnett Co. Sheriff’s InvestigationLeads to Recovery of Missing Child and Arrest of Violent Offender

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Raleigh, NC
– The U.S. Marshals Service, in coordination with
the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and Fayetteville Police Department,
safely recovered a child and mother who had been missing from
Fayetteville, N.C. since 2016.

On Feb.26, 2021, the U.S. Marshals Service in
Raleigh was asked by the Fayetteville Police Department to assist in
locating a missing child and mother who were victims of previous
physical abuse.

The investigation gained momentum when
investigators with the Fayetteville Police Department and U.S. Marshals
developed information that the missing child and mother were located in
Bunnlevel, North Carolina, and may be associated with Joe Smith, 59. On
Jan. 19, the ATF charged Joe Smith with possession of a firearm by a
convicted felon.

The U.S. Marshals, working with the ATF and
Harnett County Sheriff’s Office, located and recovered the missing child
at a residence located on Lemon Lane in Bunnlevel Jan. 25 and turned the
child and her sibling over to the Harnett County Department of Social
Services to provide victim assistance. During the recovery of the child,
Joe Smith was taken into custody without incident. The Harnett County
Sheriff’s Office and ATF executed a search warrant at the residence of
recovery and subsequently seized four firearms.

“The culmination of years of following leads and
tips resulted in the outcome that we had all hoped for today; the
successful recovery of a child who had been missing since December 2016.
The U.S. Marshals Service and our investigative partners will not quit,
nor be deterred until these children are rescued,” said Michael East,
U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

“The U.S. Marshals’ safe recovery of a young
child who has been missing since 2016 and the arrest of Joe Smith came
about as a result of critical assistance from our outstanding state,
local, and federal partners in North Carolina and highlights our
commitment to locating and recovering endangered missing children,” said
Chief Inspector Doug Bell, of the agency’s Investigative Operations

“I am so thankful that the individuals were
located safely due to the hard work and perseverance of all of the
agencies involved,” said Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats. “This is a
testament to the professional working relationship between all of these
agencies and I am grateful for them. These types of investigations are
very complex and require many hours in the field to bring this case to a
positive conclusion.”

“This investigation highlights the dedication and
perseverance of every investigator involved, said Gina Hawkins, Chief of
the Fayetteville Police Department. “This case would not have been
solved without the hard work and combined effort of our local, state,
and federal partners. We are truly grateful for their assistance and

“This search not only recovered numerous firearms
from a convicted felon and prohibited individual, but also brought some
closure and relief to family and friends of the missing person,” said
ATF Special Agent in Charge Vince Pallozzi. “These are the outcomes that
law enforcement works so hard for.”

Agencies involved in this investigation

  • Fayetteville Police Department

  • Harnett County Sheriff’s Office

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and

  • North Carolina State Highway Patrol

  • National Center for Missing and Exploited

  • Harnett County Department of Social Services

  • United States Marshals Service

The U.S. Marshals Service was given authority to
assist state and local law enforcement when requested under the Justice
for Victims of Trafficking Act passed in 2015. Since then, U.S. Marshals
have been working jointly with the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children (NCMEC) and their state and local counterparts to
recover missing and endangered children.

The U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest
federal law enforcement agency, having served the country since 1789.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found


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