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Published: Wednesday, 5/27/2009

Quarry, lake being searched as efforts continue to find Monroe missing girl

BLADE STAFF

MONROE - A quarry and a man-made lake, both privately owned, are being searched as a task force of more than 100 local, state, and federal law enforcement officials continues its efforts to find 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan.

Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield said during a press conference Wednesday morning the two sites are targets of the search now, and a helicopter and canine units are being used in searches as tips come in to authorities. More than 200 tips have been received, the sheriff said.

No arrests have been made, but the sheriff said people of interest have been interviewed by law enforcement officials.

Sheriff Crutchfield said his office as well as the FBI and others are being staffed 24 hours a day in an effort to locate the girl who has been missing since Sunday night.

When asked about reports of a hunting knife being found in connection with the missing girl, Sheriff Crutchfield said property found as part of the investigation has been sent to the Michigan State Police Crime Lab for analysis. He would not confirm that the property was a knife.

Nevaeh Buchanan Nevaeh Buchanan
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The quarry is located on the south end in Monroe Township off Laplaisance Road and Dixie Highway, where divers from the Wayne County Sheriff's Department and Grosse Ile fire department are in the water searching. The other site, on the north end, is off North Dixie Highway near I-75 in Frenchtown Township.

Following the press conference, Sherry Buchanan, Nevaeh's grandmother, who has custody of the girl, held her own press conference Wednesday afternoon near a tree at the apartment complex where Nevaeh was last seen.

She begged for the safe return of her granddaughter. While pleading with the public, she also held stuffed animals and other toys belonging to Nevaeh.

One was a stuffed beagle named Harley that Nevaeh has carried with her to school in a backpack.

Nevaeh was riding a bike or scooter when she disappeared about 6:30 p.m. Sunday from the Charlotte Arms garden apartments, 1160 North Macomb St. in Monroe, where she lives with her mother, Jennifer Buchanan, and her grandmother.

In an Amber Alert issued by the sheriff's office, Nevaeh was described as wearing a light blue sleeveless shirt with red and white horizontal stripes and a white V-neck collar, as well as blue jean shorts but no shoes or socks.

Authorities said they believed she was abducted and in extreme danger.

Late Tuesday a search restarted for the little girl who has been missing and feared abducted since Sunday night. Hundreds of relatives, friends, and volunteers Tuesday night scoured the fields and wooded areas after they had gathered and received flashlights and instructions at a Kmart store about a mile from the girl's apartment complex. Thousands of copies of a flyer featuring Nevaeh's picture have been distributed.

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

By TOM TROY

BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Members of the families of 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan restarted the search late Tuesday for the little girl who has been missing and feared abducted since Sunday night.

With the help of a private detective who is related to the girl and of thousands of copies of a flyer featuring Nevaeh's picture, hundreds of relatives, friends, and volunteers Tuesday night scoured the fields and wooded areas. They had gathered and received flashlights and instructions at a Kmart store about a mile from the girl's apartment complex.

"I wanted to be a part of [the search]," said Monique Pridemore, 42, of Monroe, who received a text message about the search from her niece.

The FBI also reported a lead in Columbus where two people - a store clerk and a customer - reported seeing a little girl who matched Nevaeh's description at about 5 p.m. Monday at Easton Town Center, a shopping complex on the north side of Columbus.

Harry Trombitas, a special agent and spokesman for the FBI office in Columbus, said the tipster and the store clerk both said they heard a heavy-set white woman who appeared to be in her 50s remark how the young girl accompanying her has a name that spells "Heaven" when written backward.

"When you have two individuals pretty much verifying the same information, that edges the credibility of the sighting up," Agent Trombitas said.

Authorities have no video footage of the conversation, nor any credit card receipts, and they're looking for anyone who might have been shopping at the center at that time on Monday.

The woman who was traveling with the child made her purchase in cash, he said.

Sherry Buchanan, Nevaeh's grandmother, who has custody of the girl, said, "I'm hoping it is true but I'm not going to get my hopes up about it."

If true, she said it would confirm her suspicion that Nevaeh was taken by someone who wants a child.

Yesterday morning, detectives with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said they had no solid leads or suspects in the case.

"We need to speak with anyone that has specific knowledge of any of the events that occurred in the complex between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. [on Sunday]," said Sheriff's Lt. Todd Opperman.

He said investigators are busy interviewing hundreds of people and canvassing the area.

"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," Lieutenant Opperman said.

Nevaeh was riding a bike or scooter when she disappeared about 6:30 p.m. Sunday from the Charlotte Arms garden apartments, 1160 North Macomb St. in Monroe, where she lives with her mother, Jennifer Buchanan, and her grandmother.

In an Amber Alert issued by the sheriff's office, Nevaeh was described as wearing a light blue sleeveless shirt with red and white horizontal stripes and a white V-neck collar, as well as blue jean shorts but no shoes or socks.

Authorities said they believed she was abducted and in extreme danger.

In the morning, both Nevaeh's grandmother and mother made tearful appeals for the safe return of the young girl.

"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," Sherry Buchanan said.

"If it's a person that wanted a kid, then just take care of her and don't hurt her, just bring her home to me," she said.

Jennifer Buchanan acknowledged she took a polygraph test Monday and was questioned at length, and believes she passed the exam.

"Yes I have taken a polygraph and I don't know the outcome of that. I don't think that I failed. I have no doubt in my mind," she said, speaking with reporters before noon yesterday.

Sheriff's Deputy Maj. Dan Motylinski said he had no idea how Jennifer Buchanan performed in the polygraph but said she is not considered a suspect.

He said Jennifer Buchanan's male friend George Kennedy, 39, remained in custody on a parole violation but was not considered a suspect.

Kennedy was living in a motel and sheriff's deputies said they have searched every room in the motel.

A second person who was detained for questioning was released.

Kennedy is on parole for two sex crimes involving a minor.

One of the conditions of his parole was that he was not allowed to have a romantic relationship with a person associated with a child.

Jennifer Buchanan said they were only close friends, going back two years to when they met while passing on the street.

She said the two of them spoke on the phone every morning and Kennedy was familiar enough to Nevaeh that she would have gotten into a car with him willingly.

Nevaeh's father, Shane Hinojosa, 22, of Toledo, said he has not seen his daughter in three years.

He said he sought custody of the child based on Jennifer Buchanan's conviction and imprisonment for home invasion in 2006, but said he was turned down.

Mr. Hinojosa camped out Monday night at the apartment complex, and remained by his tent with family members all day.

Jennifer Buchanan pleaded guilty to two counts of home invasion in November, 2006, in Monroe County Circuit Court, and was sentenced to 24 months to 20 years in prison.

She was released from parole in January.

Major Motylinski said the search was targeted based on tips.

"When the tips come in we're checking them out. I wish we had a suspect. I wish we had more information," he said.

Ryan Duvall, a private investigator who is related to the fiancee of Jennifer Buchanan's brother, Michael, offered his help in organizing searches in the afternoon.

The family and volunteers searched behind Kmart, 129 North Monroe St.

Mr. Duvall said he has contributed $500 to start a reward fund for information leading to the arrests of the person or persons responsible.

Staff writer Tom Henry contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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