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Published: Saturday, 5/30/2009

Monroe County sheriff holds out hope that Nevaeh is still alive

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield on Saturday morning said he is hopeful that 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan is still alive and law enforcement officials will not rest until the girl is reunited with her family and her kidnapper is caught.

"The longer that we go without finding any indication of Nevaeh being incapacitated, the more hopeful we are that we will find her alive," Sheriff Crutchfield said at a press briefing Saturday morning.

He said he is in regular communication with the girl’s family and investigators have received 700 tips and had processed 640 of them by 10 a.m. Saturday.

"This case is very near and dear to all the investigators working," the sheriff said. "Our sympathy goes out to the family. We will remain involved in this. We are very hopeful we will solve this, that we will recover Nevaeh, and that we will apprehend the perpetrator."

Asked if George Kennedy, a convicted sex offender, is considered a suspect, Sheriff Crutchfield said "he remains a person of interest," but that "we have persons of interest who come on to the radar scene daily. It fluctuates."

He added, "He is not quite as high as he could have been if the blood evidence had come back positive."

It was revealed on Friday that the DNA of Nevaeh was not found on bloody items belonging to Kennedy, who is a friend of the girl’s mother and who had been living in a Monroe motel for the last five weeks. He has been jailed since Sunday on probation violations.

Sheriff Crutchfield on Saturday said some of the blood was Kennedy’s but would not say how much.

"It is not Nevaeh’s blood and we could still find her alive," the sheriff said.

Other than Kennedy and Roy Lee Smith, another convicted sex offender who is also in custody on probation violations, no other persons of interest have been named and the sheriff said he would not be giving names of any other people being investigated.

Sheriff Crutchfield did say that more than 100 law enforcement officials from half a dozen agencies are involved in the investigation and that they will or have already searched locations on Saturday, although he would not reveal the places that are the targets of those searches.

Article appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

Blood stains not linked to Monroe girl

MONROE The DNA of missing 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan was not found on bloody items belonging to George Kennedy, a convicted sex offender who is a person of interest in the disappearance of the girl, authorities said Friday night.

Monroe County Sheriff Tilman Crutchfield said in a statement that preliminary results of testing on unidentified blood evidence on Kennedy s property failed to match the DNA of Nevaeh, who was last seen alive nearly a week ago.

Authorities have said that items belonging to Kennedy taken in a search of his motel room on South Dixie Highway were sent to the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in Northville, Mich.

A search warrant left in Kennedy s Motel 7 room listed an inventory of items taken by investigators, including blood stains on the wall above the sink and the bathroom, bloodied shorts and towel, and sheets, pillow cases, mattress pad, and comforter.

A multiknife tool set and fishing weights that investigators found in a white GMC van that Kennedy reportedly had used also were sent to the crime lab for DNA evidence testing.

Sheriff s Deputy Maj. Dan Motylinski said he didn t know what blood items belonging to Kennedy tested negative for the girl s DNA.

Police reports show that investigators obtained Nevaeh s DNA sample from her toothbrushes, underwear, shorts, and other garments that were in her family s apartment.

Kennedy, 39, a convicted sex offender, was taken into custody on an unrelated parole violation hours after the child s mother, Jennifer Buchanan, reported her missing about 8:30 p.m. Sunday after she could not find her in the parking lot outside their North Macomb Street apartment.

According to the affidavit for the search warrant, an 8-year-old boy, one of two children to last see the girl in the parking lot, told investigators he watched Nevaeh go into the woods and was kidnapped and stabbed by a bad man .

Another playmate, a 5-year-old girl, claimed she witnessed Nevaeh being stabbed with a knife and tried to help but could not after she saw the girl going into the woods to meet Daddy George.

The search for Nevaeh remained focused yesterday on her North Macomb Street apartment as authorities again searched the densely wooded area next to the complex.

A team of Monroe County sheriff s deputies and state police officers combed the five-acre woods with shovels and rakes, emerging about 2 hours later without any clues to the disappearance.

The afternoon search of the property to the north of the Charlotte Arms parking lot included a pair of county jail inmates and a sheriff s helicopter.

Tracking dogs, used in an earlier search of the property, were not used by the law enforcement team.

Authorities did not say why the wooded area become a renewed target for searchers, but a source close to the investigation said the measure was taken to rule it out as possibility.

The apartment complex at 1160 North Macomb St. remained an area of interest in the investigation as units were searched.

More than 240 residents, visitors, workers, and others associated with the complex had been questioned as of Thursday, Sheriff Crutchfield said.

We are still in the apartment complex, Sheriff Crutchfield said.

A special task force of local, state, and federal officers has fielded more than 530 tips, with about 420 of them investigated.

We will be following up leads and tips wherever they take us, the sheriff said, adding that investigators would continue canvassing the 108-unit apartment complex and interviewing people there.

Sheriff Crutchfield said Kennedy, described by authorities and relatives as the boyfriend of Jennifer Buchanan, and Roy Lee Smith, 48, were still being treated as persons of interest in the investigation. He declined to elaborate.

Kennedy, who remains in custody at the Monroe County jail on a parole violation, was accused of sexually harassing teenagers in Monroe County s Exeter Township and was convicted of raping a girl in 1998.

Smith, who also is being held in the investigation of a parole violation, was released from prison last year after serving a 15 to 50-year sentence for third-degree criminal sexual conduct in a 1991 rape case.

Meanwhile, one possible sighting of Nevaeh in central Ohio was ruled out.

A girl spotted Monday at the Easton Town Center north of Columbus is not Nevaeh, said Special Agent Harry Trombitas, spokesman for the Columbus bureau of the FBI.

We ve been able to positively identify the young girl and her grandmother. We were able to track them down, Mr. Trombitas said.

Near Nevaeh s apartment complex, a shrine of stuffed animals, lighted votive candles, toys, red and pink balloons, and handwritten notes continued to grow under the shade of a cottonwood tree near the parking lot where Nevaeh was last seen riding a scooter as she played with friends.

Monroe resident Arthur Allen paid his first visit to the memorial established for Nevaeh, planting a miniature American flag among the tributes.

I am hoping that they can find her, or at least find some information about her, said Mr. Allen as he cradled his 2-year-old son, Jalan. I am hoping everything will turn out all right.

At a morning news conference, Sheriff Crutchfield said that even though searches of the former France Stone Quarry on South Dixie Highway and Dunbar Road near Kennedy s motel room and a lake near Heck Park on North Dixie, also a former quarry, near I-75 yielded no clues in the girl s disappearance, the sites could be later re-examined as the investigation continues.

Sheriff Crutchfield wouldn t comment on whether Jennifer Buchanan was being treated as a person of interest.

According to police reports, a notebook and handwritten notes believed to have been written by Nevaeh s mother were found in the apartment.

The sheriff also withheld comment on letters reportedly written to Kennedy.

Shaun Lawson, a relative of Nevaeh, said a another community search to comb woods, creeks, and other remote areas of the areas was planned Friday.

The plan is to find her, he said. We are going to keep searching until we find her.

Staff writer Carl Ryan contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Reiter at:markreiter@theblade.com,or 419-724-6199.



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