GOLDEN CITY, Mo. —
The faces of the searchers reflected equal parts shattered hopes, realized fears and a dawning sense of grief as they filtered back into Golden City shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday on horseback and in cars.
A body had been found about a mile northwest of this little prairie town of 760 or so residents. Law enforcement officials cautioned that a positive identification had yet to be made.
But the searchers’ faces seemed to concede: Who else could it be?
Who else but Adriaunna Horton, the object of their search, the 12-year-old with the winning smile who had been missing since 5 p.m. Monday, when she was last seen getting into a vehicle near the town’s park, where she had been playing with other children?
“We still had hope,” said Karla Abeyta, one of the searchers, as she got back to town. “I was praying that she was going to be alive.”
Abeyta, whose boyfriend’s son is a friend of Adriaunna’s father, James Horton, had driven over from Pittsburg, Kan., to help look for the girl. She was one of more than 100 volunteers to join the search on its third day, about 14 of whom rode horses.
After having thoroughly scoured the town on Tuesday, out to a perimeter of a mile or more, with the help of two K-9 units, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the FBI, the Tri-State Major Case Squad, seven sheriff’s departments and five police departments, search coordinators focused their attention west of town on Wednesday.
The volunteers were taken out on Highway 126 and began walking fields to the north on each side of 100th Lane at 11:18 a.m. The body was discovered about 1:50 p.m., according to Sgt. Mike Watson, with the state patrol.
Abeyta said her line of searchers had just crossed over a fence line into another field when word that a body might have been found came over the radios of their handlers and they were ordered to stop. She described it as an awfully demoralizing moment up and down the line of searchers.
A friend of the girl’s family, who was on horseback, appeared to pass out with the news, and others rushed to his aid, Abeyta said. The search was called off moments later, and the volunteers returned to town.
Watson acknowledged that leads developed overnight by investigators focused the search on the fields to the west of Golden City. But he declined to say if that information had come from Bobby D. Bourne Jr., the suspect in the girl’s abduction, who has been in custody since about 7 p.m. Monday when his vehicle was stopped in Golden City by a Barton County sheriff’s deputy.
Watson also declined to discuss any details concerning the state of the body and the location where it was found, although the searchers are known to have been about a mile northwest of town when the discovery was made.
“Currently, the identity is unknown and the process of identification may take up to 24 hours,” Watson said.
He said “more than likely” DNA testing would be used to confirm identification.
Bourne, 34, of Lamar, who is being held on $1 million bond, has been charged with kidnapping. He could be facing other charges once the body has been identified and an autopsy performed.
Associate Circuit Judge Charles Curless ordered the case record on Bourne sealed with the filing of the kidnapping charge on Tuesday. That means the affidavit stating what probable cause investigators had for his arrest has not yet been made public.
Steven Kaderly, the Barton County prosecutor, said the judge sealed the case file out of a concern that the investigation might be compromised if court records were left open.
The state patrol has confirmed that Bourne was alone when he was stopped and taken into custody. But investigators have declined to specify the make, model and color of the vehicle he was driving.
Bourne at one time lived in the Golden City area and worked with James Horton on home repair jobs. The girl’s mother, Wendi Jackson, of Overland Park, Kan., has been in Golden City since shortly after her daughter’s disappearance was reported by her father.
The girl’s family had expressed optimism as late as Wednesday morning that Adriaunna might be found alive. Her paternal grandfather told reporters that she was a resourceful girl and a good runner. The family members and their closest friends appeared shaken Wednesday afternoon and attempting to come to grips with the discovery of the body.
THE DECISION WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON to call off the search for Adriaunna Horton appeared to be a clear indication that investigators have good reason to believe that a body discovered about a mile outside Golden City is that of the missing girl.