Rosie O’Donnell’s missing 17-year-old daughter, Chelsea, was found Tuesday hiding in the attic of a house where a man with a history of drug-related arrests lived, authorities said — based in large part on tips and a cop's intuition.
Police in the New Jersey township of Barnegat told BuzzFeed News that on Tuesday night, their department got a tip from the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department in New York that Chelsea may be at a local house. Police Lt. Keith Germain said Officer Nicholas Dapuzzo was then dispatched to check out some possible home addresses, during which he made contact with 25-year-old Steven Sheerer, who has a history of drug-related arrests.
“Being a good street cop, Dapuzzo picked up on some behavior cues and recognized through experience that Steven seemed to be very nervous and possibly evasive, and put two and two together,” Germain said.
Dapuzzo then advised Sheerer that he believed Chelsea was in the house and wasn’t going to leave without her, Germain said.
After speaking with Sheerer, Dapuzzo entered the house and located Chelsea in the attic with her dog, Bear.
“She was cooperative and came down voluntarily,” Germain said.
According to authorities, the two met online, but Germain could not confirm reports that they met through Tinder.
Chelsea was taken back to the station, where they kept her “healthy and happy” until they could arrange a ride back to O’Donnell, who expressed relief after issuing a public appeal for help in finding her adopted daughter.
O’Donnell was so thankful her daughter was found that she called Barnegat police on Wednesday and asked for Dapuzzo’s number to personally thank him, Germain said, adding that the gesture was "very much appreciated."
As for Sheerer, he was not arrested despite there being a minor hiding in his attic.
“There was nothing that warranted criminal charges,” Germain said. “We have had dealings with him in the past… We have arrested him before for various offenses — DUI, drug possession, disorderly conduct.”
Sheerer was arrested in 2012 on suspicion of possessing heroin, but the charge was later dismissed as part of a plea bargain. He has also been arrested on suspicion of child endangerment.
Claudia Rosenbaum is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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