INDIANAPOLIS — Many are breathing a sigh of relief Thursday night after hearing the news that a 2-year-old girl, missing for at least 16 hours, has been found safe on Indy’s east side.
According to police, the toddler is believed to have gone missing at some point overnight from a home in the 800 block of North Rural Street, however investigators did not receive a missing persons report until the afternoon.
IMPD said it was dispatched to the home on a report of a missing toddler. Officers and detectives arrived on scene around 2 p.m. to began their investigation and search for the little girl.
According to IMPD, preliminary investigation led them to believe that she was last seen around 1 p.m., however, further investigation showed that she had been missing since at least 4 a.m.
As the investigation continued, IMPD worked with the Indiana State Police to issue a statewide Silver Alert for the missing toddler. It was later cancelled when it was confirmed that she was found safe, around 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Soon after the alert was issued, police received surveillance video from a neighbor that appears to show a Hispanic woman holding a child on her hip. Police said they are hoping to identify who the woman in the video is to speak with her and hopefully help investigators piece together a timeline of where the child was and who she was with.
As the investigation continued, throughout the afternoon, neighbors, community members, and people with no ties to the area, said they came over to help the search for the child because they felt it was the right thing to do.
One of those searchers was Melissa Bryant and her husband.
“I have triplet grandbabies that are 2-years-old. I have children of my own and if one of them came up missing, I would pray that people would be out here looking for my grandbabies like me and my husband, and people from the community are out here doing right now,” said Bryant.
“We’ve seen a lot of people out looking for this little girl and just going up knocking on doors, asking people who have been sitting outside, checking trash bins, checking dumpsters, abandoned houses, under bushes, high leaves, just anywhere,” said Bryant as she described what the search looked like from a community standpoint.
Others, like Denise Paul Hatch, a constable-elect for Center Township and resident, and Randy Wandell, who lives in the area, said they knew they had to come out and help.
“I came out because I have four children and I was concerned because if it happened to my kid, I’d hope people would come out and be concerned for my children,” Wandell said. “When I see a child that’s missing, I feel like we should all go out to help. Everybody should just care about the child.”
The two residents were among self-organized searches canvassing the area for the missing girl throughout the afternoon and evening.
In the meantime, police continued to exhaust their resources by bringing on the FBI onto the investigation. Members of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender Registry Unit canvassed the area, going to the home of known registered sex offenders. IMPD PIO William Young said investigators wanted to make sure they turned over every leaf they could.
Around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Young gave an update that the toddler was found safe. Preliminary information shows that she was dropped off at her place of residence and that a family member was able to get into contact with her.
“It’s certainly disturbing whenever we have a missing toddler, or two year old,” said Young. “So, I can’t thank the community enough, the investigators, they thank the community for all those tips that came in.”
The toddler’s family members, alongside the community, were elated to hear the good news. Young said one of the family member’s told him that they knew she would get home safely.
There are still questions into where she was since she had gone missing, who she was with, and other pieces of the investigation that detectives are working to string together. They’re asking people in the community to continue coming forward with any information that may help give a clearer timeline of where this child was throughout the 16-hour stretch she was gone.