FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) – Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton is sending a word of warning to whoever stole a laptop from a 14-year-old girl with disabilities.

It was her only way of communicating with others.

“Quite honestly, it’s despicable what they did,” Melton said. “And they might be unknowing right now of what they have, but it’s everything to her.”

Melton said during a press conference Friday that the laptop and phone were stolen Wednesday night while the Barlow family was at church. At the press conference, Layne Barlow sat in her wheelchair smiling next to her grandparents. She is a happy teenage girl but is unable to easily communicate now without that equipment.

“There are unintended consequences when you steal,” said Marvin Barlow, Layne’s grandpa. “No. 1, if it’s not yours, don’t take it.”

Barlow said they were inside the Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene for about an hour Wednesday night. When they came out to the family’s van in the parking lot, they found Layne’s laptop and cell phone were gone. Barlow’s backpack had also been rummaged through, and one of Layne’s friend’s backpacks was also missing. But it was then found tossed under a bush on the edge of the church parking lot.

Barlow said the van was not damaged. He admitted he accidentally left the van unlocked as they were in a rush to get in to the service. Now, he’s asking whoever took the equipment to return it.

The laptop is a Tobii Dynavox and it is worth about $17,000. It is a portable speech-generating device. Through Layne's eye movement, she controls the computer to speak for her. And through the computer, she can send texts and make voice calls with the cell phone.

“You might just see it as a computer. You might just see it as a laptop. But as you see now, we have taken away from her ability to communicate,” Barlow said.

Layne has not been able to walk or talk since birth. She’s been using this type of technology for the past seven years to help her live life like every other teenage girl. Without either the laptop or the phone, her grandparents said it’s difficult for her to communicate with her teachers, friends, caregivers and family.

Melton said they are investigating some leads as to who the suspect or suspects may be. But he wants to give whoever did this a chance to come clean.

“We are asking for it to be brought here,” he said, pointing to the front door of the sheriff department. “Turn it in now. No questions asked if you turn it in.”

However, Melton emphasized if it is not promptly returned, his deputies will find whoever did it. Because giving Layne back her voice, is the right thing to do, he said.

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