Lehigh teen back in school after ordeal





A 21-year-old man who allegedly kidnapped a 17-year-old youth from Lehigh remains behind bars in the Brown County jail Monday.

Rejilio Hernandez is not only facing charges in Hiawatha, but could also be looking at multiple crimes in Marion County, said Sheriff Rob Craft.

Details continue to be sketchy on what Hernandez will actually be charged with, but when Brown County has completed its investigation, Marion County officials will be bringing him back here, Craft said.

As for Tara Simhiser, who was reported missing Tuesday, Oct. 20 but was brought home safely by Thursday night and returned to classes at Hillsboro High School Monday and seemed to be in good spirits.

?Our goal is for her to re-enter into school so she can complete her senior year,? said Max Heinrichs, principal. ?To get her back with us is a very good thing.?

The Amber Alert was activated Wednesday after family members told Marion County officials that Simhiser was missing.

She was last reported to have been at home in Lehigh. It had been reported that Hernandez had a history of visiting high schools in Texas and Kansas posing as a coach or someone other than who he was, Texas authorities reported last week.

Heinrichs said Hernandez was never in Hillsboro High School, but he was at the school?s homecoming game.

?I did not know that at the time,? he said.

Through conversations he had with Simhiser before the event, Heinrichs said he had doubts about Hernandez?s character because of what he was telling her and what he knew from other sources.

The Marion County Sheriff?s office has been working on the case from the beginning and is still trying to figure out what happened.

Whether Simhiser went willingly with Hernandez or if she was taken against her will is one of many questions yet to be answered.

But at this point, Craft said he doesn?t have enough information to move forward on charges.

As part of the ongoing investigation, Craft continues to talk with Susan Robson, Marion County attorney.

Following Simhiser?s disappearance early last week, the Marion County Sheriff?s office issued an Amber Alert, which was broadcast Wednesday on radio and television networks statewide.

It was because of the publicity that Simhiser was recognized at a bank in Hiawatha while trying to cash a check.

John D. Merchant, sheriff of Brown County, said the Hiawatha Police Department responded to the bank teller?s call and were able to take Simhiser into protective custody and Hernandez into jail without incident.

Along with help from Brown County authorities, Craft said, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation assisted his office from the beginning and will continue to participate in the ongoing investigation.

?Without all this cooperation, the outcome may very well have been different,? Craft said during a press conference Thursday.

On Thursday morning an assembly was held at Hillsboro High School, Heinrichs said, to let students know what was happening with Simhiser and to be thinking of her.

?One thing we wanted the kids to know is that our building is safe,? he said. ?Sometimes they gripe about all the outside doors being locked, but this is a perfect example why we do that. We want this place to be as safe as home.?

The Simhiser family was not available for comment Monday.

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