- Child found, police continue investigation
By IVY HERRON
The search for a missing 2-year old late Monday evening ended happily with the child found at a local home, but the investigation into the child's welfare by the Brazil City Police Department is just beginning.
Shortly before 9:30 p.m., Monday, 911 dispatchers received a report of a missing 2-year-old wearing only a diaper in the area of Lake Brazilian Estates.
At the time of the initial report, the boyfriend of the child's mother, who had been drinking, said the child wandered away while he was on the Internet. The mother was not home at the time of the incident.
Members of the Brazil City Police and Clay County Sheriff's departments and the Clay County Search and Rescue initially responded to the scene where neighbors with flashlights were already looking for the child. Other off-duty police officers, members of the Brazil City Fire Department, the Clay County Sheriff's Posse and the Putnamville State Correctional Facility's K-9 tracking unit was called to assist as crucial minutes ticked by.
"A 2-year old can't go far, but you don't know if the child is injured, at a nearby neighbor's home, is lost or whether they have encountered an unscrupulous person," Police Chief Mark Loudermilk said. "It was a cool evening -- too cold for a small child to be out with nothing on -- there was a pond, a wooded area and high-traffic areas located close by. As each minute ticked by, the more time missing the more danger the child could come in contact with."
Volunteers and emergency response personnel combed the streets of the neighborhood checking empty houses, buildings and trailers; looking in cars and clearing the woods and pond near the trailer park.
"I really appreciate the help from all the volunteers and agencies involved," Loudermilk said about the more than 100 people that participated in the two-hour search.
Authorities became concerned when the specialized K-9 unit arrived and the tracking dogs didn't pick up the scent of the child.
"It meant the child couldn't have wandered off," he said. "That was contrary to what we were being told."
As the case appeared to take a sinister turn and law enforcement was preparing to question the boyfriend, the child was reported to be safe and in the custody of a relative of the boyfriend. Apparently the boyfriend asked the relative to pick up the child a few hours before being reported missing.
Loudermilk says it is important to ensure the safety and welfare of the child after an incident like this.
"When the assigned caregiver, in this case the mother's boyfriend, didn't know, or was too intoxicated to know, where the child was that is completely unacceptable," he said. "Child protective services were contacted Monday evening and a preliminary case report has been turned over to the Prosecutor's Office to review for any possible charges stemming from this case."
Names of the adults involved in the case are being withheld to protect the identity of the child and the integrity of the investigation. Further details will be limited because of the ongoing investigation.