Family of missing Arizona girl, 6, allowed home

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 24, 2012 5:59 PM
Family of missing Arizona girl, 6, allowed home

By Marisa Gerber

(Reuters) - The parents of a missing 6-year-old Arizona girl who authorities said may have been snatched from her bedroom in Tucson were allowed home on Tuesday after a search of the family home using FBI-trained dogs, police said.

The parents of first-grader Isabel Mercedes Celis told detectives she was last seen on Friday night when they tucked her into bed, and was found to have vanished when a family member entered her room the next morning to awaken her, police said.

After an intense but fruitless door-to-door search of a swath of Tucson surrounding the girl's house, investigators renewed their focus on the family's single-story home on Monday morning using specially trained dogs brought in by the FBI.

Police Sergeant Marco Borboa said officers finished their second warrant-backed search of the Celis home in the early morning hours of Tuesday, adding that police expected the family to return home later in the day.

In their hunt for the child, police extended their search to adjacent neighborhoods and were continuing to scour the nearby Los Reales landfill for clues Tuesday. Officers were sifting through a portion of refuse that had been transported from the area near the girl's home Saturday morning, Borboa said.

Police have said they were treating Isabel's case as a "suspicious disappearance" and were not ruling anything out, nor had they identified any suspects in the case.

"Do I have (enough information to) say 'Be on the look out for this type of person? No, I don't have that level of information," Police Chief Roberto Villasenor told a news conference.

Villasenor said an FBI behavioral analysis unit was flying into Tucson on Tuesday to help "guide us in questioning" Isabel's family and neighbors.

Police were also collaborating with the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, which Villasenor said was considering Isabel's case "the highest profile case currently being worked in the nation."

The missing girl's parents thanked well-wishers for their support and said they were cooperating fully with police in a statement read out by Tucson police at a news conference late on Monday.

"They're being very cooperative," Villasenor said, adding "Obviously (these) are times of emotional distress for them."

Hundreds of volunteers have joined in the search for the missing first-grader, amid an outpouring of support for the family in the close-knit Tucson community.

Kelly Tafoya, a member of ‘Mommies of 520,' a support group that alludes to Tucson's area code, showed up at the police command station Tuesday morning to pick up posters showing Isabel's face to place in the windshield of her car.

"My daughter is roughly the same age and I can't imagine the guilt they must be feeling," Tafoya said. "If I woke up and I was home and my child was missing, I would be beside myself."

Villasenor urged parents to be extra vigilant - a message already heeded by Tafoya who kept her eyes glued on her 5-year-old daughter Brooklyn who darted around the parking lot.

"Since it happened, we're a lot more careful about where she's at. I went out and bought more window locks," Tafoya said.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Eric Walsh)