Friday, January 10, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The grim possibility that a missing 7-week-old girl is seriously hurt or dead hung over police Friday as they searched for the baby in northeast Memphis.
For a second day, police used cadaver dogs as they scoured homes, backyards and a pond for missing Aniston Walker, whose mother was charged Friday with abuse and neglect in the baby's disappearance.
Aniston was wearing a onesie with football emblems on it when she was last seen by her mother, 33-year-old Andrea Walker, on Thursday morning, police said.
Andrea Walker said she told police that she left her daughter with her 3-year-old son while she took her 5-year-old son to school. When she returned, the baby was gone, but the 3-year-old was still in the house.
Walker said the doors were locked when she arrived at home and there was no sign of a break in, according to a police affidavit. She told police only two other people had the key, the affidavit said.
Police said she called the child's father, who does not live at the same address, and he reported the baby missing. Walker then left the house again — leaving the 3-year-old alone in the house for an hour— as she traveled to several locations throughout the city, the affidavit said.
Police said they interviewed Walker, then charged her with child abuse and child neglect. Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said she is a suspect in the disappearance.
"Realistically, 7-week-old kids don't mysteriously disappear without some circumstances behind it," Armstrong said. "If this was a teenage kid, if this was even a small child of school age, obviously our hopes would be high. But again, 7-week-old children to not have the means to just disappear."
Police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said the two young sons were with relatives.
Police Sgt. J.K. Smith wrote in the affidavit that he observed Walker during several hours of questioning.
"Based on his experience and the age of the child that is missing, affiant has probable cause to believe the child has sustained seriously bodily injury," Smith wrote.
Walker is being held on $500,000 bond. Court records do not show whether she has a lawyer.
The search on Friday concentrated in the neighborhood of single family homes with brick facades and triangle roofs. One area of focus was a small pond behind the Walker home, where a power excavator was used to dig for evidence.
Officers wearing protective vests and using K-9 units went home to home, searching yards, trash bins and clusters of tall trees. Neighbors watched the search from their front doors and front yards.
Rain that fell Thursday could have hampered the dogs' ability to pick up a scent, Armstrong said.
Police also attempted to search a landfill where trash from the neighborhood's homes is dumped, but there were too many scents for the dogs to get a positive hit, Rudolph said.
Rudolph said investigators plan to suspend the search later Friday evening and resume it the next morning.
Walker was believed to live alone with her three children. It was not immediately known when someone other than Walker last saw the missing child.
Walker "has not been as forthcoming as we wish that she would," Armstrong said.