Print Criminal investigation: 2-year-old still missing
Written by {ga=mlineberger}   
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 07:13

The search for a 2-year-old boy who disappeared from a local campground more than a week ago is now being treated as a criminal investigation, Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh said Aug. 2.

Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh, right, Sgt. Jeff Newnum, center, and YCSO criminal  investigator Tom Boelts explain during a press conference  Aug. 2, how after extensive searching, investigators have switched their focus from a rescue effort to a criminal  investigation in the disappearance of 2-year-old Sylar Newton.Sylar Newton was reported missing early July 25, around 2:30 a.m., at the Beaver Creek Campground, southeast of I-17 on Forest Road 618.

A call to YCSO from the camp host first alerted deputies, who arrived on the scene to begin a search of the area just before 3 a.m.

At a press conference at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Camp Verde on Aug. 2, YCSO Sgt. Jeff Newnum said nine days of extensive searching had turned up absolutely no trace of the missing child.

Waugh said investigators are now working under the assumption that Sylar is dead, and the search has now turned into an effort to locate any remains.

“We believe he did not wander from the campground and is presumably dead,” Waugh said. “The investigation is now criminal.”

Still, Lt. Tom Boelts with the YCSO Criminal Investigation Bureau said investigators were not completely ruling out the possibility Sylar could have been taken from the campground and is still alive.

“We’re following up leads as they come in,” Boelts said. “There’s a possibility that he’s alive somewhere, but we have no credible leads.”

While reiterating this disappearance is now being treated as a criminal investigation, Boelts stopped short of calling it a homicide investigation.

The boy had been reportedly sleeping in a tent with his custodial mother, her mother and the custodial mother’s 12-year-old daughter.

The custodial mother’s 14-year-old son and another 14-year-old boy were in another tent. The family is from the Flagstaff area.

Interviews with other campers led investigators to determine that the last time anyone outside the family heard Sylar was around 8 or 9 p.m. on July 24, Boelts said.

Newnum said extensive resources were used to scour the area, including dozens of volunteers, scuba divers and swift water teams, sonar, horses, a helicopter and the FBI. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided assistance, helping to calculate how far a 2-year-old in a diaper with no shoes could have traveled by the time the search began.

“Our experience is that a 2-year-old has no survival instincts,” Newnum said. “If he’s hungry, he cries; if his diaper is dirty, he cries. We’d thought we’d hear [Sylar] cry but unfortunately that just didn’t happen.”

Bloodhounds who were searching for Sylar based on the scent from one of the boy’s sandals didn’t want to leave the campground area, Newnum said. Even when they forced them to search in other areas, Newnum said the dogs still wanted to come back to the campground.

Investigators also spent three days searching through 200 tons of trash at the Gray Wolf Landfill hoping to find any trace of Sylar’s remains, but found nothing.

Newnum said the search started to turn into a recovery effort after Thursday evening, adding that there are two documented reports of a toddler surviving 96 hours in the wilderness.

As of Aug. 2, Newnum said investigators and volunteers had spent nearly 5,000 man-hours in the search for Sylar.

Newnum said the search had been “heartbreaking.” The average shift for searchers was 10.8 hours, Newnum said, and when the command tent came down, no one wanted to leave.

“I got an e-mail from one of my incident commanders,” Newnum said. “He said, ‘We’ve all fallen in love with Sylar even though we’ve never met him.’ It’s the type of thing that makes you really want to go home and hug and kiss your children. ... The search will not end until we find Sylar.”

YCSO deputies interviewed all registered sex offenders in the Verde Valley, but the effort turned up no additional leads.

The custodial mother and her mother submitted to lie detector tests, something YCSO Spokesperson Dwight D’Evelyn said is standard procedure in cases like this. Boelts said the results of the polygraph tests still need to be reviewed and were not currently available to investigators.

The family has been cooperative with investigators and the search, according to D’Evelyn.No end date has been set for the search, which continues while investigators are also looking into any circumstances that might “shed light” on the disappearance, according to D’Evelyn.

Recordings of the 9-1-1 call and a call from the camp host to YCSO were released over the weekend.

The 9-1-1 call recording, which was received by the Sedona Fire District, is of someone reporting his friend’s brother is missing. The second call, from the camp host to YCSO, recorded the host reporting a 2-year-old was missing, but that he knew little information beyond that.

Additional information is currently being withheld by YCSO to prevent releasing anything that could possibly jeopardize the investigation, according to D’Evelyn.

The custodial mother told investigators she was in the process of adopting Sylar. FBI agents located Sylar’s biological mother, who lives out-of-state; detectives are still looking into the circumstances of Sylar’s adoption process.

Boelts said accounts differ but it appears the woman has had custody of Sylar since he was around 3 months old, or possibly 1 year old.

The campground has now been reopened to the public.

In another case last week that YCSO officials say has no connection to Sylar’s disappearance, deputies investigated the disappearance of 2-year-old Emmett Trapp from his home in Dewey-Humboldt. Emmett’s body was found about a mile away in a pit, after the boy wandered three miles through rugged terrain.

Anyone with any information about Sylar’s disappearance is asked to call YCSO at (928) 771-3260 or Yavapai Silent Witness at (800) 932-3232. Callers do not have to give their name.