PLANTERSVILLE, Texas — UPDATE - Christopher Ramirez was found alive and safe, according the Grimes County Sheriff's Office. He was reunited with his mother Saturday morning. Read more.
The search continues in Grimes County for a missing 3-year-old boy who hasn't been seen since Wednesday. A massive multi-agency effort, including local law enforcement, the FBI and EquuSearch have been working around the clock to find Christopher Ramirez.
And on Friday, the search for the child widened.
Christopher was last seen on Deer Park Lane in the Foxfire subdivision in Plantersville around 2 p.m. Wednesday. He is Spanish-speaking only but responds to his name.
The child's mother told us her son disappeared shortly after they got back home from running errands. She says he was playing with a dog and ran after him away from the house.
She says she took her eyes off Christopher for two minutes while she unloaded groceries and that’s all it took. She says he was gone, although the dog did come back.
What we know right now
- Christopher was last seen on Deer Park Lane around 2 p.m. Wednesday
- Mother says he disappeared after he was playing with the family dog and ran after away from their house
- Sheriff says a pond in the area has been drained
- Searchers expanded their grid slightly beyond the subdivision Friday
- The family, immediate and extended, has been excluded as any persons of interests
- Sheriff said his department has not received any tips
- Sheriff added they do not have any leads at this time
Day 3 of search
Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said during a briefing Friday afternoon that there's still no sign of Christopher.
“I hate to look y'all in the eye and say I don't have anything, but we’ve had over 100 something people on the ground since this morning...They covered a large ground area again plus an extended area. Still nothing.”
Early Friday, the sheriff said the search grid has been expanded slightly beyond the subdivision and they are rechecking some areas in case they have missed anything.
The sheriff said a team of investigators looked into the possibility of any criminal issues in relation to the disappearance of Christopher. As of Friday afternoon, the family, immediate and extended, has been excluded as any persons of interest, according to Sheriff Sowell.
Sgt. Martha Smith, with the Grimes County Sheriffs' Office, said she has been with the family since the beginning and they are having a rough time with the amount of attention they are receiving.
"They are going through a difficult time right now as you can imagine. Social media is not their friend and it is awful the things that are being said," Smith said.
Sheriff Sowell said there was a little bit of hope within the investigation after a 3-year-old boy named Christopher was spotted with a man and woman near Brewster County. Law enforcement agencies and Border Patrol were able to stop the man and woman to investigate the young boy that was with him but they quickly learned he was not the boy they were looking for.
Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller said this is one the most difficult searches he has done in 21 years.
He says the thick woods, an hour northwest of Houston, are not an easy search.
“I just can’t see a 3-year-old going through stuff that heavy that fast that searchers couldn’t have located him that night," said Miller.
The sheriff explained they do not need any more volunteers help search at this time. He said having too many people could “clog up” the search and even contaminate the search grid.
“We have to keep it as a structured environment,” he said.
Day 2 of search
At a news conference Thursday night, Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said Christopher still hadn't been found after a second day of searching on land and through the air. He said one large pond in the area has been drained, and divers have been into two others and still no sign of the child.
He says they'll stay out there until they find him.
"We’ll be running people through here at night like we did last night. We have another team coming in the morning," he said. "We have investigators working on parts of this case. We have searchers working on parts of it. We have documenters documenting everything.”
Sheriff Sowell also said this is still a rescue, not a recovery and asked the media to continue to be their voice. You can watch his full portion of the news conference below.
Earlier in the day, the child's mother spoke to the media, giving an emotional plea for her son to be returned to her. She says she believes he was abducted, though Sheriff Sowell says there's no evidence to suggest that.
"There have been no tips. There have been no rumors. There have been no facts to give us anything to go on," he said. "I’m not saying we’re concluding anything. I’m saying we’re staying here until we find him, however long that takes."
It's a missing child case that has shaken up residents and neighbors in the area. Dozens of community members are stepping up and helping law enforcement and first responders in the search.
Tim Miller with Equusearch was also at Thursday night's news conference.
“We know where he’s not," said Miller. "And as long as we know where he is not, we’re holding on to that hope that he is okay up there and we’re going to get him back.”
K-9 units with TDCJ as well as DPS helicopters have been working with authorities on the ground.
Christopher was last seen wearing a bright green shirt, shorts and red Mickey Mouse shoes. He is 3 feet tall and weighs about 45 pounds.
Investigators have been combing through that heavily wooded area near the home.
Authorities said members of Ramirez's family told them that he likes to play in vehicles, so the search team gathered and decided they would once again search each and every vehicle throughout the subdivision.
Teams have also been searching all sheds, pools and other places that look like good hiding spots.