Missing Florida boy found in California after mother killed in Orlando

Missing child alert issued Tuesday for 7-year-old Donovan Carruthers

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - A missing 7-year-old boy was found safe Tuesday evening in California, as a result of the missing child alert issued by Haines City police, 10 days after his mother was found dead at an Orange County hotel.

Donovan Carruthers was last seen seven to 12 days ago in the area of Verbena Street in Davenport. He was reported to be with his mother Amber Carruther’s boyfriend, Joseff Rhodes, 41, police said.

Rhodes saw himself on social media this morning and took Donovan to a local police department in California, police said.

“This is the best outcome we can hope for,” Haines City police Chief Gary Hester said.

Police said Rhodes is cooperating with authorities and is not facing any charges at this time.

Donovan's mother was found dead in Orlando on June 17 at the Econo Lodge hotel on South Orange Blossom Trail. Orange County detectives said they are investigating her death as a homicide.

Hester expressed his frustration on Tuesday saying that bureaucracy held up the investigation into finding the boy, because it was unclear where Donovan was last seen.

“Bottom line, the system worked,” Hester said. “Although delayed, it has worked.”

Hester said authorities were not sure from which law enforcement jurisdiction Donovan went missing from, which is why the alert was issued from Haines City, not Orange County.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office informed the Department of Children and Families on June 19 that Donovan could be in danger if in the custody of Rhodes.

Rhodes has a criminal history, which includes promoting prostitution, human trafficking and violent crimes, according to police. Rhodes was the boyfriend, and possibly pimp, of Carruthers, Haines City police said. He is not the 7-year-old's biological father, according to DCF.

Police said Carruthers and Rhodes may have been homeless and living in hotels. Rhodes also has ties to California, police said.

“We have no direct information that (Rhodes) would intentionally harm the child but we don't have any evidence to dispel that at this point, either,” Hester said.

The DCF investigation led police to believe that Donovan should be picked up to ensure his safety, police said. 

DCF officials then notified the Haines City Police Department on June 20 to obtain a child pickup order because Rhodes' last known address was in Haines City, police said.

“DCF had reported to us that they were unable to get other agencies to take the missing persons report at that point we initiated the missing persons report here in Haines City, even though we can't confirm the child went missing from here,” Hester said.

A missing child report is normally filed through the agency with jurisdiction where the child was last seen, but when jurisdiction cannot be determined any law enforcement agency can issue the report, according to the Florida statute.

An active child-welfare investigation is ongoing, DCF spokeswoman Kristi Gray told News 6.

Anyone with information about Donovan's or Rhodes' whereabouts is asked to call the FDLE at 1-863-421-3636 or the Haines City Police Department at 911.

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