While she and her family were at church in Frankfort on Wednesday, someone stole the computer that a disabled teen girl uses to speak, and the Franklin County sheriff wants it returned.
Layne Barlow, 14, was at Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene on Wednesday night when someone took the computer and her cell phone from the family’s unlocked van in the parking lot.
Layne was born with a condition that prevents her from being able to walk or speak. At a press conference broadcast live on Facebook Friday afternoon, her grandfather, Marvin Barlow, explained how the Tobii Dynavox communication device that was stolen allows her to talk.
“She uses her eyes which will become her mouse,” he said. “She is able to communicate to other people because it will speak for her.”
Without it, he said, communicating with teachers and friends at school is much more difficult.
The equipment is valued at about $17,000.
Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton held the press conference to urge whoever has the computer to return it.
“I’m personally appalled that someone would do this,” Melton said. “We are asking for it to be brought here. Turn it in now. No questions asked if you turn it in. We won’t ask you anything.”
If the computer isn’t returned, he said he has told his staff to go hard to find those responsible.
“We don’t take this lightly,” he said. “I will find you, I promise.”
Layne is an eighth-grader at Anderson County Middle School. Her grandfather said she has been using a computer to speak for about seven years.
But, like most teenagers probably would be, he said she was most concerned about her cell phone being stolen. He said that when paired with her computer, she can use it to call and text with her friends.
While the computer can be replaced, Marvin Barlow said it would take at least three or four weeks, if not longer. He said the school staff had made picture cards to help them communicate with Layne in its absence.
“There are unintended consequences that are associated” with stealing, Marvin Barlow said. “You might see it as a laptop, but as you can see now, we have taken away the ability to communicate with her peers and with us and with her teachers.”