Oklahoma police have arrested the caregiver of a 4-year-old girl who was reported missing after a mailman found her sister wandering alone outside on Tuesday, authorities said.
Local authorities began looking for Athena Brownfield on Tuesday afternoon, when the postal worker discovered her 5-year-old sister near the orphanage in Cyril and notified police, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which also is involved in the search.
Alysia Adams, 31, was arrested Thursday afternoon on two counts of child neglect, the outlet said. The two sisters were in the care of Adams and her husband when the 5-year-old was found alone, police said.
Meanwhile, the search for Athena continues.
“The investigation into her whereabouts is active and ongoing,” the agency said on Thursday.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol on Wednesday issued a missing and endangered person alert for people within a 15-mile radius of Cyril, located about 70 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.
Police are working to put together an exact timeline of when Athena was last seen, according to Brook Arbeitman, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Department of Investigation.
Locating the parents is “part of the ongoing investigation,” Arbeitman told reporters on Wednesday.
“Right now, our top priority is locating her and finding out who is responsible,” Arbeitman said. “But we need to find this little girl.”
Arbeitman said whether the child was the victim of physical harm “has yet to be determined”, although she is considered endangered at the moment.
“She is a small child and she is missing, and she is alone in the elements,” Arbeitman said.
Her sister did not require any medical attention and is currently in state protective custody, Arbeitman said.
National Center for the Disappeared Exploited children and Fort Sill soldiers are among those helping in the search, Arbeitman said. State troopers were conducting sonar searches of bodies of water in and around Cyril on Wednesday. Oklahoma Department of Corrections search dogs and Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs drones were also employed in the search.
Volunteers also helped conduct a grid search, searching empty houses and local waterways, police said.
Arbeitman said authorities were finding items in the city that “may be relevant” and useful to the case, though he declined to elaborate.
“We’re finding things that we hope might give us clues,” she said.
Law enforcement is encouraging residents and businesses to share any surveillance footage they may have, including doorbell cameras, as well as to search their properties.
Athena is described by authorities as being 3 feet tall and 45 pounds with light brown hair and blue eyes. She is believed to have recently worn a butterfly sweatshirt.
Anyone with information about her whereabouts should contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations at 800-522-8017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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