Search for missing boy shifts to criminal investigation
- Portland Tribune - News
UPDATE • Sheriff's office offers reward for information on Kyron's whereabouts
The search for 7-year-old Kyron Horman is now a criminal investigation.
Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton said Sunday afternoon that the 10-day ground search for the child would end and a criminal investigation in the boy's disappearance would begin.
At the same time, Staton said the sheriff's office was offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads investigators to Kyron.
"We are going to continue this investigation as a criminal matter," Staton told reporters.
"It's not going to stop. I am not going to cease in dedicating resources to locating Kyron."
Speaking to reporters with Kyron's family standing in the background, sheriff's Capt. Monte Reiser said out-of-town search crews would leave in the next few days. The ground search around Skyline School, where Kyron disappeared Friday, June 4, would continue if necessary with local search and rescue crews, he said.
Reiser did not say the sheriff's office had received evidence or other information that Kyron was kidnapped. He said the criminal investigation was a "natural progression" from the ground search for the boy.
"This is now a criminal investigation," Reiser told reporters.
Friends of the Horman family will host a candlelight prayer vigil for their missing son Tuesday evening in the Cedar Mill area.
It is at 7 p.m. at the Sunset Presbyterian Church, 14986 N.W. Cornell Road.
Organizer Rachel Hansen said the vigil is intended help keep public attention focused on the search for the missing boy. it also will give the community a chance to show its support for the Horman family.
'It only takes one good tip to bring Kyron home,' Hansen said.
Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton announced Sunday afternoon a $25,000 reward for information leading to Kyron Horman's whereabouts. Kyron's family stood behind Staton during the press conference announcement. COURTESY PHOTO/FOX 12
In addition, Kyron's family has received a large shipment of the missing-person T-shirts that they have worn in public for several days. The shirts will be distributed free to the public on a first-come, first-served basis at the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Hansen Building, 12240 N.E. Glisan St., beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Search grinds into ninth day
On Saturday, more than 300 people searched for Kyron, sometimes covering the same areas two and three times.
Multnomah County sheriff's deputies said the searchers were still 'charged up' about what has become one of the largest missing-person searches in Oregon's history. Morale is still high among search and rescue crews, who were going over some territory around the school several times, looking for clues to the boy's June 4 disappearance.
Also on Saturday, Kyron's family answered written questions from reporters, saying the second grader was a 'very loving child' who enjoyed playing with Hot Wheels cars, his cat Bootsy and his dog Ernie (in Medford). He hoped to be a police detective or an investigator when he grows up, said sheriff's Capt. Mike Shults, who is working closely with the family.
Kyron also was looking forward to several camping and fishing trips in Southern Oregon and Northern California this summer, where he could use his new fishing pole, Shults told reporters during a Saturday afternoon briefing.
The boy also was excited about his school science fair project the morning he vanished, Shults said.
The briefing has become a daily affair in the search for the boy who disappeared sometime between 10 a.m. Friday, June 4, and 3:30 p.m., when he did not get off a school bus at his house.
Shults said that during the first few hours after Kyron disappeared, the family did just about everything anyone else might do to find their child.
"When Kyron did not get off the bus that night, they immediately went into mode that any of us would do, they talked to neighbors, they searched around their property, they called police, they looked at school," Shults told reporters. "They were exhausted. They had pretty much done everything they could do to locate their boy right away."
'Please help us bring Kyron home'
On Friday, June 11, a week after their child disappeared, the Horman family appeared at the briefing and thanked searchers and law enforcement officials for their work. They also expressed hope that the missing 7-year-old boy would be home soon.
'Kyron, you mean everything to us,' said Tony Young, Kyron's stepfather. 'Until you come home, this family is not complete.'
It was the first time Kyron's family has discussed the boy's disappearance publicly. A written statement from the family was read by a Multnomah County sheriff's captain this week, which included a plea that the focus stay on finding Kyron.
His father, Kaine Horman, also expressed gratitude during a brief statement, urging the public to continue looking for the boy.
'Please help us bring Kyron home,' Kaine Horman said.
Kyron Horman's father, Kaine Horman, consoles his wife, Terri Moulton Horman, during Friday's press conference. COURTESY PHOTO/FOX 12
One development was a tip that a boy matching Kyron's description was seen this week in Yreka, Calif. The SiskiyouDaily.com newspaper reported that Yreka police were going door to door handing out flyers with Kyron's photo and information, asking that anyone with tips about the boy should come forward.
The boy, however, was not Kyron, Yreka police said.
Also on Friday, sheriff's deputies showed clothing similar to what Kyron was wearing when he disappeared. A pair of size 7 cargo pants, a CSI T-shirt, white athletic socks and dark sneakers were displayed for reporters.
Groundpounders continue their work
The search for the missing second grader continued with the help of state-certified search teams riding horses and walking through the brush, said sheriff's Sgt. Diana Olson, incident commander for the search and rescue operation.
The aircraft - a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter based in Salem - will search areas overhead that would otherwise be inaccessible, Lt. Col. Marty Plotner said.
For the first time on Friday, the search expanded beyond Skyline School to Sauvie Island, where crews and helicopters spent part of the day.
On Thursday, volunteer search and rescue workers - 'groundpounders' as Olson called them - will continue to search around the school along back roads, power lines and other areas. The recent drenching rain has made search conditions difficult, but searchers are pressing on, she said.
So many public donations of food and water have been made that on Saturday, the sheriff's office asked that the public stop providing things - for now - to the search teams. Cash donations to help defray costs of the search can still be made through Bank of America, Olson said.
Skyline school has been searched again and again and again, said sheriff's Capt. Jason Gates, and they'll check it again if they need to. The FBI, meanwhile, has set up a mobile command post nearby which they're using to process information.
Gates says he has no intention of slowing the search effort.
'The original mission is find Kyron and bring him home,' Gates said.
He declined to comment on the number of tips law enforcement has received on the case, but urged people to continue sending them in and use their 'eyes, ears and memory,' he said. 'That's how cases get solved.'
Having the entire state cooperate to find Kyron is 'incredible, overwhelming,' Gates said, pausing as he collected himself.
'We're doing everything we possibly can,' he added. 'Everything.'
Klamath sheriff joins effort
The search and rescue teams from across Oregon were called in Wednesday after the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office activated a new statewide search-and-rescue system.
Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, considered an expert on finding missing children, came Portland to help lead the search.
Evinger said he joined the search to help a fellow sheriff who needed his experience and resources.
'It's something we do for each other,' Evinger said.
Gates said Wednesday that calling in the statewide teams was a 'natural progression' in the week-old search for the missing boy.
'This is all about bringing Kyron home,' he told reporters during a Wednesday afternoon press briefing. 'We are doing everything we can logically and legally to find him.'
At the same briefing, Kyron's family thanked searchers and law enforcement agencies for their work, and urged the public to continue looking just about everywhere, around nearby properties and other places in the largely rural area between Multnomah and Washington counties.
'We need for folks to continue to assist us in our goal,' the Horman family wrote in a statement read by Shults, who is acting as a liaison with family members. 'There are a lot of resources here to help you search, so please don't stop.'
Focus on Kyron
Shults said the family also wanted the public to 'keep the focus on Kyron, not anything else.'
Kyron's family - his father and stepmother, who live just a few miles from the school, and his biological mother, who lives in Southern Oregon - have so far stayed out of the public spotlight.
Wet conditions greeted searchers Wednesday as they looked for 7-year-old Kyron Horman near Northwest Cornelius Pass Road. TRIBUNE PHOTO/L.E. BASKOW
Shults said that since Kyron's disappearance, he's been with Kyron's family every day both for support and assistance.
New developments in the search include the addition of an FBI mobile command post set up near the school to aid investigators' work. The vehicle includes a communication center, computers and equipment to process evidence, Gates said.
Benjamin Keefer, Skyline School principal, also read a statement from Christina Porter, Kyron's teacher, which said students and staff were focused on getting through the school year, which ends June 15, and looking forward to Kyron's return.
Investigators have interviewed nearly everyone in the school community, they said. Tips also continue to pour in, although Gates did not say how many they've now received in all.
'Keep 'em coming,' he said.
Gates said the search will continue, and he remains optimistic.
'We are moving forward under the premise that we're looking for a living Kyron Horman,' he told reporters.
'We are fully utilizing every resource available to us. The public needs to stay vigilant and continue to pray for Kyron and his family.'
He said later that search and rescue workers are professionally trained but also trying to seperate their emotions from their work.
'This is a worst-case scenario for us,' Gates said.
Parents come together to help
On Tuesday, school officials said parents and family members of Skyline students had 'pulled together' during the past few days to offer support during a 'trying time.'
As law enforcement officers and volunteers searched for Kyron, Keefer told reporters parents and teachers at the school were trying to cope with the disappearance and its aftermath.
'Parents are coming together, current parents and past parents, to offer their help and support,' Keefer said. 'Obviously, this is a very trying time and a parent's worst nightmare.'
The FBI and sheriff's officials told reporters Monday afternoon that more than 1,200 tips on the case have poured in during the past few days. Nearly two dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies were following up on every lead. Hundreds of trained searchers were canvassing the neighborhood and scouring the heavily wooded areas and grassy fields around the school by foot and helicopter on a continual basis for any trace of the boy.
'Kyron, we're gonna bring you home, buddy,' Multnomah County Sheriff's Capt. Jason Gates, the incident commander for the search operation, said Monday, his voice breaking with emotion. 'We're not gonna stop. We're not slowing down.'
The search has continued nonstop since Friday evening. The FBI also has put Kyron's information on its website to help spread the word, Gates said.
'We've never stopped searching,' he said.
The 'missing child endangered case' - unprecedented in recent memory for Portland Public Schools - has attracted national media attention since such cases are rare, and even more shocking in a tight-knit community at Skyline School, 11536 N.W. Skyline Blvd.
There are just 300 students in grades K-8, and the disappearance came in the middle of a before-school science fair open to students' families. The last day of school for students is June 15.
Kyron had just presented a project on the red-eyed tree frog, and his stepmother, Terri Horman, reported him missing around 3 p.m. Friday when he failed to return home on a school bus that afternoon.
The FBI has since sent its Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team, including a child profiler who is drawing up information on Kyron such as who his friends are, what he ate, and so on, said Arthur Balizan, FBI special agent in charge of Oregon.
Search 'not contained' to school
Investigators on Monday did not release new details on the investigation, saying they didn't want to jeopardize the integrity of the case.
However a few interesting facts have emerged:
• The last time Kyron was seen at school was 9 a.m., different from what was originally reported. Gates declined to name the last person to see him. Early reports said another student saw him near a school door.
Portland Public Schools spokesman Matt Shelby told reporters Monday that the district had altered its policy on notifying parents about absent students. Shelby spoke during a noon press briefing on the search for Kyron Horman. TRIBUNE PHOTO/L.E. BASKOW
• As to the scope of the investigation, Gates could not say if the investigation had crossed state lines, but that the search is 'not contained to just around the school.'
He also did not say if officials were interviewing registered sex offenders in the area, but that 'we have not left any route of investigation out of the picture.'
He said the case has not been classified on a missing child case, a criminal case or an abduction case, but 'we're going down all those roads.'
He encouraged people to send in any tip they might have, no matter how small.
Help for the school community
As Skyline students played at recess on Monday, at the hoards of media made their encampment directly across the school in the parking lot of the Brook Hill Church.
The scene was somber as FBI and other law enforcement vehicles drove back and forth with teams of search crews, and officials interviewed school parents, staff and volunteers in the school parking lot.
A school police officer will remain at Skyline for as long as needed, and the school is being hyper-vigilant about all visitor protocols.
There are also extra counselors at the school to aid any students or staff who need support, as well as roving substitutes to relieve teachers who might need a break.
School district officials said there is no districtwide policy about requiring administrators to notify parents about absences.
Thirty-seven of the district's 57 elementary schools have mandatory reporting requirements for absent students, but not Skyline since it does not have attendance problems.
District spokesman Matt Shelby explained Monday that the 'autodialer' phone system was put in place as a deterrent against truancy, and is therefore used at all middle and high schools but only some elementaries.
The autodialer usually calls parents by the end of the day at high schools, since it tracks attendance in all of the students' class periods. For elementary schools, it could call parents by midday, he said.
As of Monday morning, all district schools will begin moving toward using the autodialer system, he said. The technology is already in place at the schools - the teachers must just get used to reporting the absences to the office each morning.
Anyone with information about Kyron Horman's whereabouts should call the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office tip line, 503-261-2847, or call 9-1-1 with emergency information.
A family member has created a Facebook page called 'Missing Kyron Horman,' and there is more information at: www.childseeknetwork.com/?archive=2564 .
Tribune reporters Kevin L. Harden and Jim Redden contributed to this news story.