Searchers stumped by boys' disappearanceby Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
Residents and authorities on the Red Lake Indian Reservation have had no luck finding two young brothers who've been missing since last Wednesday. So far there's no clear evidence pointing to what happened.
Even as a major ground and air search operation was called off Sunday night, authorities vow to continue looking for the boys until they are found.
Red Lake, Minn. — The brothers, Tristan White, 4, and Avery Stately, 2, were last seen playing in the yard of their rural home last Wednesday morning. Federal authorities called off a five-day search of the heavily wooded area near the boys' home after it turned up no clues.
The search included hundreds of volunteers on foot and using ATVs, horses and dog teams. Divers searched nearby lakes and ponds. An unmanned aerial device shot video from the sky. But there's been no sign of the boys.
Paul McCabe, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation, says there's no indication whether the boys wandered off or were abducted. He says investigators are looking into both possibilities.
McCabe says dozens of federal agents have been following up on tips called into the agency's hotline.
"From the 75 leads that have come in so far to date, there has been no real significant information that would lead us to Tristan or Avery," McCabe said. "Those leads have taken us throughout the greater Minnesota area, as well as several leads that have taken us back to Minneapolis. Those leads were tracked down and resolved and with no pertinent information to the case."
FBI agents are working around the clock from a command center in Red Lake. McCabe made the decision to call off the ground search, but he says the investigation will continue until the boys are found.
"We have a significant amount of agent power up here. We also have analysts that are assisting, going through those leads looking for any links or something that might generate a new lead," McCabe said. "In addition to that, we have our behavioral analysis unit from Washington D.C. here who can help in the investigation, give us clues from past historical cases."
Falling temperatures over the past few days have dimmed hopes that the boys could have survived in the woods. Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain says he doesn't think the young boys could have gotten far on foot. Jourdain says he thinks something else may have happened to them.
"My gut feeling is that they're not in the area that was searched. We've gone over it with a fine-toothed comb," Jourdain said. "I know there have been times when these searches have happened and they've actually passed over. But the amount of people, resources and everything, it just tells me that the boys aren't there."
Federal authorities say they'll conduct limited and pinpoint searches for the boys if new information surfaces.
FBI agent Paul McCabe says he was impressed how Red Lake and the surrounding community pulled together to help find the boys.
"The response from the community has been overwhelming. They were out there in the searches every day. And the response from greater Minnesota and the surrounding community was just absolutely outstanding," McCabe said. "Many of these people left their families on Thanksgiving Day to come search for these two boys. I commend their dedication and unselfishness in coming out here to assist law enforcement."
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to the boys. The agency is getting help from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, tribal police and other local law enforcement agencies.
- All Things Considered, 11/27/2006, 5:23 p.m.