Reasons for why Leroy Newswanger traveled to Virginia with his 16-month-old son are unclear

GORHAM — Before leaving the family farm in Gorham, Leroy Newswanger fed the animals, as was his normal chore. He grabbed an older, portable radio because the radio in his dark blue, 2005 Chevrolet Silverado wasn’t working.

He dressed his 16-month-old son Glenn David in a snowsuit and flannel-type shirt. He is believed to have packed a diaper bag for the boy, who was suffering from a bout of hand, foot and mouth disease and had blisters around his mouth. In the Canandaigua area, he filled up the vehicle with gas.

All of these were actions of someone about to take a long trip, according to Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero.

But it’s what Newswanger, who last had been seen with his son in the area at a bank in Penn Yan on Thursday afternoon before they were reported missing, left behind in New York that Povero said led to his apprehension in Virginia.

On Friday, Newswanger entered the Sentara Regional Health Center, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, seeking medical attention for himself, as he left his medications in New York, and an exam for his son.

An emergency room doctor searched the web, and found a story and photo about the missing man and his son, along with the phone number of the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, at rochesterfirst.com, the website of WROC TV.

The Ontario County Sheriff’s Office’s 911 system received a call shortly after 12:30 p.m. Friday, Povero said.

“Medical staff felt that, in general, Mr. Newswanger’s behavior was unusual and became suspicious,” Povero said.

And that led to his apprehension Friday afternoon. As of 2 p.m. Friday, the elder Newswanger, who is a member of the Mennonite community, was being detained for a medical evaluation and questioning by Rockingham County law authorities.

A call to the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office was not immediately returned. Harrisonburg is in the Shenandoah Valley west of Washington, D.C., about a two-hour drive away.

Arrangements were being made for the child’s return home, Povero said, and the family — which includes a wife and several children — are “elated.”

“Both are in good physical shape,” Povero said. “There’s clearly no obvious medical concerns with the 16-month-old and Mr. Newswanger is being evaluated medically.”

Family members had become concerned about Newswanger and his son late Thursday afternoon, as they had not seen them since 11 that morning.

An investigation led officers to the bank in Penn Yan at 12:30 p.m., at which point he withdrew $300 from his bank account, Povero said.

In addition to working with law enforcement agencies in the area, investigators provided information about the Newswangers and the vehicle that ended up taking them south with other agencies that aid in the search for missing children, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Team Adam and the New York State Missing Child Alert Clearinghouse.

Investigators also reached out to leaders in the Mennonite community, who were cooperative and helped disseminate information, Povero said.

“In this particular case, we have found them to be completely supportive of our investigation to locate this man and his young son,” Povero said.

Povero estimated the distance of the trip at about 400 miles and a seven-hour drive, indicating that Newswanger must have made stops along the way.

With the two found safe, the big question left is, why did Newswanger leave and why did he take his son?

Answers were not immediately available on Friday.

Povero said the elder Newswanger, who has an extensive mental health history, had concerns with the federal government that he wanted to deliver to the Washington, D.C., area in person and is hopeful authorities in Virginia can determine what those concerns are.

Povero said he was not aware of the specifics of Newswanger’s concern, but has emphasized that to the authorities in Virginia.

“At this point, as far as the New York state penal law is concerned, we do not have any probable cause to identify a violation of penal law,” Povero said. “We’ll continue the investigation. Obviously, the interview of Mr. Newswanger in Virginia is very important, and that may develop information that may be relevant to us in that regard.”

Povero said he remains concerned about the reasons for the trip, but said there is no history of any domestic violence by Newswanger, who has custody of the child, against the 16-month-old, his other children or his wife, Povero said.

Povero also indicated the Sheriff’s Office had no indication to support that his behavior was in any way homicidal or suicidal.

There were no issues that Povero was aware of when Virginia authorities apprehended Newswanger.

“One of the things that we have determined is that he apparently is very cooperative with persons in positions of authority,” Povero said. “That he is compliant, that he is a good member of his community and he works with the community on several positive goals.”

Povero praised the media for providing coverage of the case, as well as thanking the Rockingham County Office of the Sheriff, Sentara RMH Medical Center, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the New York State Missing Child Alert Clearinghouse in Albany, New York State Police and the Yates County Sheriff’s Office.

He also thanked members of his own team, many of whom stayed on the case from the beginning, he said.

“It’s been a long day for many and a lack of sleep for many,” Povero said. “I think this is a testament to the dedication of law enforcement in this organization that was truly concerned about the well-being of a 16-month-old child and wanted to go the extra mile to ascertain that the child was located safely and the arrangements for the child’s safe return are put in place.”