Missing 2-year-old child found safe after hours of searching

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2019

About 100 people provided assistance in the search for a  missing 2-year-old child Monday evening, who was found safe about two-tenths of a mile from the home.

In addition to the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department deputies and detectives who responded to the call, individuals who assisted in that search included community members, off duty emergency personnel from the Sheriff’s Department and Picayune Police Department and volunteer firefighters, said Deputy Chief Shane Tucker. Sheriff David Allison said he noticed some residents from north Hancock County also assisted.

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The call of the missing child came into the Sheriff’s Department Monday just before 8 p.m. from a neighbor who said that the mother of the missing children could be seen in the road of the Hunter’s Trace subdivision calling out to her missing 2-year-old, Tucker said.

Deputies and detectives responded and spoke with the mother, who said that she put her two children down for a nap that afternoon at about 4:30 before taking a nap herself. At about 7 p.m. a neighbor across the street found the woman’s 3-year-old child in their garage, so they brought the child back to the correct home. Tucker said about 20 minutes after that, the neighbors found the same child at their home again, so they decided to keep the child at their home. Later that night is when they heard the mother calling for her children so they brought the 3-year-old to her, but the 2-year-old was still missing.

By the time deputies had arrived, community members had already begun searching for the child, some of whom were riding ATVs.

Deputies searched the home where the children lived and the neighbor’s home across the street just to be sure the child was not there, before calling in the Pearl River County Search and Rescue Team headed up by Pine Grove Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Seal. Seal brought his bloodhound to assist in the search, but his dog was unable to find the child.

By that time, close to 100 people including community members, volunteer fire fighters and off duty law enforcement officers, had gathered to assist in the search.

Sheriff David Allison said that while the neighborhood was waiting for news of the child, one woman suggested they gather in prayer for the young person’s safe return. About 20 minutes later they got some news, he said.

As the search party was setting up grids to conduct a more organized search, a group of volunteers on ATVs found the child about two tenths of a mile from the home along a cleared area for power lines. Tucker said the child was relatively unharmed, except for some bug bites and scratches.

“It was impressive to see a neighborhood come together like that,” Tucker said.

“We thank the good Lord for leading us to him,” Allison said.

The child was then taken to Highland Community Hospital where the Department of Human Services became involved. Tucker said the child was eventually released to the father, who does not live with the mother. He added that DHS intends to continue its investigation, and the detectives are also continuing to look into the incident.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Tucker said the department was requesting an arrest warrant for the mother, identified as 26-year-old Tori Renee Martin, of 55 Hunters Trace, for child neglect.

Allison said he would like to thank everyone who came out to assist in the search.