Major Update on Missing Teen Who Was Last Seen Wearing Bizarre 'Liar' Shirt


It was a case that drew attention — and indignation — from people on both sides of the Atlantic.

A 14-year-old boy, Scottie Dean Morris, had gone missing in Eaton, Indiana, disappearing from his family’s home on a dangerously cold night wearing only shorts, sneakers and a T-shirt.

But there was something about that shirt that drew an unusual amount of attention to the case.

A widely circulated photo of the missing boy showed him wearing the baggy white shirt covered with accusations that had been handwritten in black ink.

One proclaimed, “I’m a liar.” Another said, “I hurt my lil’ brother.” Another sentence was not fully visible in the photo except for the word “cheat.”

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The boy’s woeful expression in the photo added to the drama: He appeared to be close to tears.

Inside Edition dubbed it “the shaming shirt” and reported that Morris had disappeared on March 16 after his parents photographed him wearing the “demeaning statements.” Eaton Police Chief Jay Turner called the shirt “disturbing.”

It was an easy target for finger-pointers — perhaps rightfully so. Members of the media, as well as internet scolds, quickly demanded the parents be investigated.

This put police in the awkward position of having to address two issues. First and foremost, there was the missing child case, for which they needed the widest possible news coverage.

The other issue needed to be addressed more quietly and confidentially. It was a question on nearly everyone’s mind: Was this a one-off instance of poor parental judgment, or was it a grim indicator of something much worse?

The shirt caused such a stir, with so many people wondering whether it was a sign of potential abuse, that the Eaton Police Department soon edited its “missing child” post on Facebook, re-releasing it with the shirt cropped out.

“[The shirt] was kind of unorthodox. It was disturbing. And we’re looking into that,” Turner told the media, according to Inside Edition.

But the first order of business was to find Scottie.

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Deputy Police Chief Chris Liggett announced that police were not investigating a crime scene, making clear (without saying in so many words) that the parents were not considered suspects in the disappearance.

They had already confirmed that the boy’s close-cropped haircut — which some said was also indicative of abuse — had been Scottie’s own idea, and had been done at a salon some days before his disappearance, not by a family member as punishment.

Dozens of volunteers spent several days combing the area, joined by bloodhound teams, police operating infrared drones and boats patrolling a river, Inside Edition reported. But they all came up empty-handed.

After that first weekend, the search was scaled back, though police continued to follow up on leads.

But then, a police officer on a routine patrol spotted Scottie at around 10:30 p.m. on March 24, just half a mile from his home, the Daily Mail reported.

What was really odd was that the boy wasn’t alone — he was standing there talking with his mother.

The Mail reported that the officer who spotted him said he was still wearing the “shaming shirt.”

The U.S. Sun quoted a town official as saying, “Scottie’s mom was picking up his sister from work and saw Scottie standing on a street corner about the same time as the officers saw him and picked him up.”

Normally, when a lost child is found safe — especially one who has been missing so long — there is a happy ending, with smiling pictures and crowds cheering and expressions of gratitude.

That didn’t happen this time around.

Eaton police did update their Facebook page with the announcement.

“We have THE BEST update to give,” the post said. “Scottie has been located and found safe! Medics are checking him out right now and we will be conducting interviews.”

But after that, the flow of information about the sensational case slowed to a trickle. A statement from the police chief explained why.

Just a few hours after Scottie was found, at 3 a.m. the next morning, Turner announced the Indiana Department of Child Services was involved in the follow-up investigation.

“Scottie has been placed in another home for the evening,” he said, according to the Indianapolis Star Press.

On March 25, the day after Scottie was found, Turner released a statement saying officers “have been conducting interviews most of the day.”

“The Department of Child Services is assisting Scottie. The family is continuing to cooperate with every aspect of the investigation,” he said.

Two days later, the police department issued what it said would be its final update on the case.

“At this time there is no reason to believe that Scottie was assisted by anyone while he was gone, however this is still an open investigation,” the update said.

“He has been medically checked out and has been cleared. This will be the last update on this case at this time, due to Scottie being a juvenile we have to protect his rights to privacy.

“Child services have this case now.”

It’s not quite the conclusion people were hoping for, but it’s probably the best possible outcome for Scottie.

Sure, it would be nice to get more details on where he was and how he kept himself hidden for those eight days.

But this time around, the public’s curiosity — and even its so-called “right to know” — has to take a back seat to the confidential part of the case, so officials can take a closer look at the circumstances that led up to his disappearance.

The rest of the world may be left wanting more coverage, more closure and fewer unanswered questions.

But if the sudden silence from authorities means that Scottie Morris really is safe now, it will be a truly happy ending, after all.

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Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.
Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.