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Mitchell: Little Bryeon should be on our minds everyday until he is found

Amber Alert phoBryeHunter 1 1/2 years old taken by force from his home Maywood. | Provided Photo

Amber Alert photo of Bryeon Hunter, 1&1/2 years old, taken by force from his home in Maywood. | Provided Photo

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Updated: May 22, 2013 6:45AM



Hope is fading that Bryeon Hunter’s body will be found.

The toddler went missing from the Village of Maywood last Tuesday.

Three Hispanic males battered her and sped off in a car with her son, according to Lakeshia Baker, the boy’s mother. Within hours, Maywood police had concluded that Baker’s story was not true.

In fact, Baker and her boyfriend, Michael Scott, 21, who lives with Baker, were each charged with first-degree murder Friday night.

But little Bryeon’s body still hasn’t been found.

“We have searched dumpsters, alleys, vehicles and the mother’s home. We are still looking at the mother’s home,” Police Chief Tim Curry told me.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, and looking for a needle in a haystack again.”

A search of the Des Plaines River at 1st and Lake Avenue on Wednesday was called off when the rains moved in. Flooding in the forest preserves near the area where Baker claims her son was snatched has made the search even more difficult.

Curry always doubted the boy would be found alive. He said officers are looking for him in Maywood and elsewhere.

“We are not going to stop. We will never stop,” he said.

The toddler disappeared wearing only a long-sleeved blue-striped T-shirt, blue jeans and Nike shoes.

The search has been a desperate race against time.

Because even if Bryeon’s captors didn’t harm him, even if they dropped him off in an isolated area in the forest preserves, the baby wouldn’t have been able to survive on his own.

Having debunked the mother’s initial story of a racially motivated attack, police are left with a mystery.

In a normal news cycle, that mystery would have been national news, especially since this mother’s claims about what happened to her son sound a lot like the racial hoax Susan Smith pulled to cover up the murder of her two young sons in 1994.

In that notorious murder case, Smith claimed she had been carjacked by a black man who drove off with her sons still in the car. The mother went on national news programs pleading her case, only to confess nine days later to intentionally letting her car roll into the lake, drowning her children.

Bryeon’s strange abduction, however, was overshadowed by a national tragedy.

Since two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon on Monday killing three people, including 8-year-old Martin Richard, and injuring 170 others, local and national media have focused on identifying and capturing the culprits.

Then came the rain.

While the initial search of the Des Plaines River brought together police personnel and equipment from across the western suburbs, by Friday most of those police districts were swamped with flood-related distress calls in their own municipalities.

At Maywood’s own police station, some police officers had to seek refuge in makeshift quarters upstairs after the lower level flooded.

Still, considering the gravity of the situation, the scene at the police station was eerie. There were no visible search crews or even media hordes waiting for the latest tidbit.

That’s what we’ve come to expect, isn’t it?

In recent years, families whose loved ones go missing often organize the community and search every nook and cranny themselves.

Bryeon’s grandmother, Brenda Lloyd, was the lone figure standing at a window on the second-floor landing at the Maywood Police Station on Friday morning. She was glued to the window as if she expected to see her grandson walk up any minute.

Not surprisingly, the family has hired a lawyer and Lloyd did not want to answer any questions then. She did, however, affirm that her grandson has not been found.

Bob Lowery, Senior Executive Director of the Missing Children’s Division, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said volunteer search crews are usually organized in the early hours of the disappearance.

“As time goes on, the search won’t be as visible as you might think you would see. Sometimes law enforcement knows where to look and may be looking into specific areas. I can tell you there is an intense investigation and search for this child,” Lowery added.

An adult knows exactly what happened to this missing child and why. But it will be difficult getting to the truth if the spotlight goes out.

For instance, also on Friday, police in Boston had the entire city on lock down after one bombing suspect was killed in a battle with police and the other was the subject of a door-to-door manhunt — before being caught.

Such big stories swallow up smaller ones.

But we must not forget 1-year-old Bryeon is missing.

His picture should be in our faces every day until he is found.



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