Missing California toddler's father freed, search continues

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 13, 2013 12:18 AM

By Ronnie Cohen

OAKLAND, California (Reuters) - A father arrested on suspicion of endangering his toddler daughter whom he reported kidnapped from his parked car in California was released from jail on Friday after prosecutors declined to file charges, as police continued to search for the girl.

Police arrested John Webb, 49, of Oakland, after he told them his 21-month-old daughter Daphne Viola Webb was kidnapped on Wednesday from his sport utility vehicle when he left her with his 87-year-old mother to dash into an East Oakland store for an energy drink. His mother suffers from dementia.

Webb spent two days in jail and was scheduled to be formally charged on Friday. Authorities transported him to an Oakland courtroom, but the Alameda County district attorney's office declined to press charges, said spokesman Eamon O'Connor. He said he could not elaborate.

A jail representative said Webb was released on Friday evening.

Oakland police have said that Webb was not a suspect in his daughter's disappearance.

Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said at least one witness saw a woman carrying a girl matching Daphne's description near the store.

The toddler was last seen wearing pink socks and an orange pajama set with pink hearts.

Dozens of officers, FBI agents and cadaver dogs have searched for the child at Webb's East Oakland home, a nearby park and a waterway he and Daphne frequented.

Webb's mother and young adult daughter waited to see him in court on Friday, but a bailiff told them Webb would be released. Webb's mother looked confused as she leaned on a cane and on her granddaughter, who appeared on the verge of tears.

Both Webb and Daphne's mother are cooperating with investigators, Watson said. She said the girl's mother was in an undisclosed location.

Police asked that anyone who had seen the father and daughter together in the days or hours before the incident contact investigators. On Thursday and Friday, officers handed out hundreds of fliers with Daphne's picture in the neighborhood where her father reported her missing, Watson said.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)