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Published: 5/26/2009

Monroe County officials appeal to public for leads in case of missing girl

BY TOM TROY AND MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Rich Castura of Monroe is among family, friends, and neighbors searching for Nevaeh Buchanan, who disappeared Sunday evening from the parking lot of her apartment complex. Rich Castura of Monroe is among family, friends, and neighbors searching for Nevaeh Buchanan, who disappeared Sunday evening from the parking lot of her apartment complex.
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

Law enforcement officials in Monroe County vowed Tuesday morning to work around the clock until a missing five-year-old girl is found.

That vow was made during a mid-morning press conference near where Nevaeh Buchanan disappeared Sunday evening while playing in the parking lot of her apartment complex.

Lt. Todd Opperman, of the Monroe County Sheriff’s department, said investigators are busy interviewing hundreds of people and they "need to speak with anyone with specific knowledge of what happened in the complex between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m."

He added, "We are looking for anything that seemed out of the ordinary. This is an ongoing investigation and we will be working around the clock on this until it is complete."

After the press conference, both Nevaeh’s grandmother and mother made tearful appeals for the safe return of the young girl.

Sherry Buchanan, the girl’s grandmother, said she has raised Nevaeh since birth with Jennifer, the girl’s mother, living with them off and on and that the young girl never wanted to go with strangers.

"I just want her back and if anybody has her and she’s still alive, just bring her back to me. That’s all I ask of you."

Jenny Buchanan said she has taken a polygraph test and said she appreciates the good job that is being done searching the area.

She added, "I’m never going to lose hope."

The story as it appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com:

By TOM TROY and

MEGHAN GILBERT

BLADE STAFF WRITERS

MONROE As the hours crept by with no word on missing 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan, family and friends grew more worried last night about the little girl.

She disappeared Sunday evening from the parking lot of her apartment complex while playing outside.

Every time I close my eyes, I see her face and I just want peace in my heart, said the girl s grandmother, Sherry Buchanan, who has custody of Nevaeh.

Overcome with emotion, she said she is praying someone will bring her back.

She s my world.

More than 50 people gathered for a candlelight vigil last night to pray for the girl s safe return and to support her family through this difficult time.

Earlier in the day, law enforcement officials, family members, and strangers searched the woods, backyards, creeks, and shopping centers of this community with no success.

The Monroe County Sheriff s Office detained two people for questioning, one of them a registered sex offender who was a friend of the girl s mother, and the other a transient seen in the area.

Maj. Dan Motylinski of the sheriff s office said both men were being questioned, but neither was a suspect.

We re still searching, still looking, Major Motylinski said last night.

Authorities said they would search as long as it takes to find her.

Nevaeh was last seen at 8 p.m. Sunday in the parking lot of the Charlotte Arms apartment complex, 1160 North Macomb St. in Monroe, where she lives with her mother, Jennifer Buchanan, and grandmother.

The sheriff s office issued an Amber Alert Sunday night that described the girl as wearing a light blue sleeveless shirt with red and white horizontal stripes and a white v-neck collar and blue jean shorts with no shoes or socks.

Nevaeh (pronounced Nuh-VAY-uh) has long brown hair, brown eyes, is about 3 feet, 8 inches tall, and weighs 45 pounds. When the Amber Alert was issued, authorities said they believed she was abducted and in extreme danger.

Ms. Buchanan, 24, said her daughter has never wandered off before.

She said another little girl and her mother had stayed over in her apartment, and the two girls had been outside playing in the parking lot for 30-40 minutes when the other little girl came in to tell Ms. Buchanan that Nevaeh was riding her scooter in the road, which Ms. Buchanan said meant the parking lot.

She went out to tell Nevaeh not to do that, and was unable to find her.

She became scared when she found the scooter after more than a half hour of searching and called police to report the child missing.

Lt. Todd Opperman of the sheriff s office said the search effort also involves the FBI, Michigan State Police, and Monroe city police.

He said the apartment complex was searched room-by-room several times and last night authorities closed the road to re-interview everybody.

We re checking everything that we can check, he said.

Lieutenant Opperman said George Kennedy, 39, was taken into custody Sunday night on parole violations and was questioned.

Kennedy, of 15390 Dixie Hwy., which is a motel, has been registered as a sex offender in Michigan since 2002.

He was convicted on one count each of attempted criminal sexual conduct and attempted children-accosting for immoral purposes, according to the Michigan State Police.

Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree involves forced sexual penetration with a person between the ages of 13 and 16. Child-accosting can involve any child younger than 16.

Ms. Buchanan said she was good friends with Kennedy for about two years and denied they were dating.

He called her regularly in the mornings, she said, but the last time she had seen him was four days ago. Ms. Buchanan said she knew he was a registered sex offender.

She said her daughter knew him well enough that she would have gotten into a car with him.

She is that comfortable with him. I don t want to point any fingers, but I m pretty sure that she would. We ve known him for a quite awhile, Ms. Buchanan said. She said she called Kennedy about 8 p.m. Sunday to tell him the police wanted to talk to him.

Strangers gave portions of their day yesterday to help in the search, and people came and went throughout the day from the apartment complex on the north side of the city.

At the candlelight vigil, friends and relatives shed tears and shared hugs as they prayed for Nevaeh.

Michael Buchanan, the older brother of Nevaeh s mother, was overcome with emotion during the vigil.

I never thought in a million years anything would happen to her, he said of his niece.

I don t know who would do this. There s a lot of stuff going through my mind right now.

He said his family was thankful for everyone s support and hopes that somebody will call the police with information to help find the girl.

Nevaeh s father, Shane Hinojosa, 22, of Toledo, said he has not seen his daughter for three years because me and her mom had issues going on.

He said he was asked to be interviewed under a lie detector and he agreed, and that Ms. Buchanan was also cooperating with a request for a lie detector interview.

The mother was interviewed by authorities for several hours yesterday while Mr. Hinojosa waited at the apartment complex.

I feel empty just standing here not able to do anything, said Mr. Hinojosa, who has his daughter s name tattooed on his arm.

He said he was sick to my stomach over what happened and vowed to walk miles to find her and make up for the time he s missed with her.

He was searching yesterday with members of his family, including his sister, his mother, and his grandmother.

Jennifer Buchanan s cousin, Shaun Lawson, 30, who lives in the same complex, said family members had warned Ms. Buchanan against the relationship with Kennedy.

Mr. Lawson said he was worried about the little girl.

The scary thing about this is you see it on TV all the time. And a lot of the kids never come back. They re gone forever, Mr. Lawson said.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Nevaeh is asked to call the Monroe County Sheriff s Office at 734-243-7070.

Contact Tom Troy at:tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.



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