Missing Mississippi 2-year-old found safe after hours of searching; mother may face child neglect charges

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A 2-year-old Mississippi child who had apparently walked out of his house after his mother napped was found safely late Monday night, hours after he went missing. The boy’s mother may face child neglect charges, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Approximately 100 people helped search for the missing 2-year-old child Monday evening in Pearl River County after neighbors, who had already found the child’s 3-year-old brother in their garage twice, noticed his mother was walking in the street looking for the child.

In addition to the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office 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 office 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 office 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 approximately 4:30 before taking a nap herself. At approximately 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 20 minutes or so later, the neighbors found the same child at their home again, so they decided to keep the child safely there. Later that night they heard the mother calling for her children so they brought the 3-year-old to her, but the 2-year-old could not be found.

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 firefighters 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. Approximately 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 safe, approximately 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 child’s father, who does not live with the mother. Tucker said DHS intends to continue its investigation, and the detectives are also continuing to look into the incident.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Tucker said the agency 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.