Cost of search for missing Nolensville teen reaches $30K

Cost of search for missing Nolensville teen reaches $30K (Image 1)

The search for a Nolensville teen that was missing for six days has cost more than $30,000 and that number is expected to rise.

Christopher Smithburg, who was thought to be 16 years old, disappeared from his Williamson County home on March 27.

Search crews worked endlessly to find the boy who was eventually located hiding at a makeshift campsite.

SLIDESHOW: Search for Christopher Smithburg

Last week, in a strange turn of events, a lawyer revealed Christopher’s mother had altered her adopted son’s age to make him believe he was still a minor, when in fact he is 18.

Mother Susan Smithburg had previously been charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect in connection with an incident where her son Christopher said she made him do 1,500 push-ups for burning toast.

Those charges have since been dismissed since Christopher is not a minor.

In the weeks since Christopher’s safe return, the numbers for the massive search effort are beginning to roll in.

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department served as the primary search agency. According to Chief Deputy Dusty Rhoades, detectives put in 370 man hours, while patrol spent nearly 500 hours assisting in the search, and reserves and volunteers spent just over 400 hours searching.

In total, authorities and volunteers spent 1,269 hours in the search for Christopher.

According to Chief Rhoades, tax payers spent more than $23,000 on the search. That figure quickly increases after adding in the cost of a dive team and equipment which is estimated to have cost $6,660.

Brentwood Police Chief Jeff Hughes told Nashville’s News 2 nine of his officers spent a total of 66 hours on the search.

Despite most of the officers being on regular duty, it still cost taxpayers nearly $2,000 and kept officers away from their normal duties inside the city. 

Mac Purdy, the Director of the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency, said they easily had 1,500 man hours of effort searching for Christopher, which also cost approximately $2,000.

The bill up to this point, reaches more than $33,000, though that figure is likely to be higher since additional agencies, such as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, did not immediately know exactly how much they spent.

When asked if the Smithburg family will be responsible for the cost of the search, Chief Rhoades said he couldn’t answer that.

“We found the young man well, not hurt, no body injured. [It’s] the cost of doing business,” he said.

Purdy added, “Our goal is to find lost people and bring them home safely. We’d rather they call early than wait an hour or two and lose that time.”

News 2 reached out to the family’s attorney for comment, but he did not respond to our request.

Christopher and his younger brother and sister remain in state custody.

When asked what the state had spent, officials would not comment, but did say in cases such as the Smithburg’s, it is standard for the state to petition the family for child support.

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