Missing Florida children at center of Amber Alert found safe
Braxton, Bri’ya located in densely wooded area
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two children were found alive Tuesday in a wooded area -- more than 48 hours after they disappeared, reports News 6 partner News4Jax.
Braxton Williams, 6, and his 5-year-old sister, Bri’ya, were located Tuesday afternoon after they were reported missing Sunday from their Whitehouse mobile home community on Jacksonville’s Westside.
Sheriff Mike Williams said the siblings were found in a dense, swampy area north of the mobile home park.
About 19 rescuers with the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department and Sheriff’s Office found the children after hearing their voices, Williams said.
“They were happy and talkative," Fire Chief Keith Powers said. "The rescuers gave them some water and candy and they said they were hungry and wanted a cheese pizza.”
The rescuers and sheriff’s department ordered a cheese pizza for the children and they were taken to the hospital for evaluation.
Both siblings are OK -- minus a few bumps and bruises -- and they were also dehydrated and tired, Williams said.
It’s believed that the children wandered off, according to the sheriff, and there is no reason to believe otherwise at this point.
“The good thing is that family is fixing to have a wonderful Christmas,” Powers said. “They just got the best Christmas present they could ask for.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Police are asking for help to find a white, four-door car playing loud children’s music as the search for 6-year-old Braxton Williams and his 5-year-old sister, Bri’ya, passes the crucial 48-hour mark.
An Amber Alert remains in effect for the two children who were reported missing Sunday from their Whitehouse mobile home community on Jacksonville’s Westside.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters said tips from the community pointed them to the vehicle, which they believe was driven by an older white man.
Kayla Guinn, who lives in the neighborhood, told News4Jax the community had been concerned about a man driving around playing music.
“Last week, my kids were out playing, and I guess the lady across the street saw a white male in his 60s was staring at my kids playing," Guinn said. “She said he was staring at them, and then drove up a little bit and then blared ‘SpongeBob’ music and put it in reverse and came back to where my kids were as if like he was trying to catch their attention.”
Waters said they want to ask the driver of the white vehicle some questions.
“We’re looking at every possibility," Waters said. “We are more than concerned. We’re going to continue to search.”
Lynn Jones, who a block away from the children’s home, told News4Jax that he has surveillance video of a road that accesses the children’s home. He said police has reviewed the video and he hopes it can help.
“I do appreciate what everybody’s doing to try and find these children,” he said.
News4Jax reviewed his surveillance video from Sunday morning. Though his system had already deleted some clips before police contacted him, News4Jax noticed one white car driving in the area through the view of the camera toward the children’s house roughly 30 minutes after their reported disappearance. It’s worth noting that Jones’ camera only has a limited view of one road and there are other roads that access the home. Jones said police may be able to find deleted clips showing more vehicles.
“They’ve gone back and checked everything and then they’re going to go back to where we first started with the camera, where we deleted some,” Jones said. “They said they could subpoena the company for the records of where we started.”
As of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Waters said, investigators had searched over 430 homes in the community, 130 acres and 20 bodies of water, using air units and K-9s. The dogs have not picked up any scents, Waters said.
He said the family continues to be 100% cooperative.
Investigators planned to continue the search at 11 a.m. Tuesday but were interrupted when dozens of volunteers showed up to help. Officer Christian Hancock told News4Jax that weather conditions were deteriorating in the area and while they appreciate the support, they don’t need any citizen volunteers at this time.
According to JSO, Braxton and Bri’ya were reported missing by a family member about 1:30 p.m. Sunday. They were last seen about 11:30 a.m. while playing in the front yard of a home at the Paradise Village Mobile Home Park off Beaver just east of Chaffee Road. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued the Amber Alert about 5:15 p.m. that day.
Braxton’s and Bri’ya’s disappearance has resonated with local families, including those who live nearby. Dozens of volunteers joined authorities when the search started Sunday and continued to search Monday night. Many offered prayers and expressed hope the children will be found safely.
Some parents News4Jax spoke to say they’re fearing the worst; that the children could have been abducted. They’re still hoping the children will be found alive. In a Monday afternoon press conference, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said searchers “have found nothing.”
As the search continues for Braxton and Bri’ya, investigators will be checking in on sexual predators and offenders who live nearby.
Within a 2-mile radius of the Paradise Village mobile home park, where the two children were reportedly last seen Sunday, there are 30 registered sexual offenders and predators.
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