FBI Joins Search for Missing 4-Year-Old, Tone of Operation Changes

January 25, 2018Jan 25, 2018
Updated January 26 2018 10:01am ET

An AMBER Alert was issued Wednesday for a missing 4-year-old in North Carolina. On Thursday, the search area was rapidly widening, but by Friday, the operation had shifted to a different tone.

Raul Johnson’s mother spoke with local CBS affiliate WBTW and said she was at work Wednesday morning when she got the type of call no mother ever wants to receive. Her precious 4-year-old son had suddenly disappeared.

Annie Johnson explained, “He [her father] was in the kitchen cooking and my daughter was in the bedroom, she was in the room playing with him and said he went missing and went outside looking for him but he couldn’t find him.”

In tears, Annie told her husband to call 9-1-1 and rushed home to join the search. When she couldn’t find Raul either, a full-blown search operation was launched by Scotland County officers by 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The family lives south of Laurinburg, N.C., just north of the South Carolina border and about 45 miles southwest of Fayetteville, N.C.

Witnesses said they saw the boy near a pond, but divers have turned up nothing. Now they're planning to drain the entire pond, according to The News & Observer, after three K9 units ran straight from Raul's house to the pond.

He was also seen walking on Village Drive near Crestline Road, less than a mile from the South Carolina border. There's been an unconfirmed report, too, of someone seeing him at Walmart. The boy is believed to be barefooted, and temperatures in the region are ranging from the 30s to the 60s.

As the search area widened Thursday, law enforcement officers from multiple agencies were looking as far north as Richmond, Virginia, over 250 miles away, under the suspicion that the boy was abducted. At least 100 volunteers and 200 personnel were looking for the boy as of Thursday evening.

By Friday, Scotland County Sheriff Ralph E. Kersey said the search and rescue efforts were morphing into an "investigative approach." He didn't explain what that means but indicated that it was a less hopeful transition. As is common in searches that last this long, the FBI is now involved.

Kersey said clues have been non-existent, but, “At this moment, nothing has been found in interviews with family, neighbors [or other information] to indicate that we’re dealing with foul play.”

According to the Laurinburg Exchange, which refers to Raul Johnson as Raul Gonzales — his biological father's last name is Gonzales — authorities have visited the home multiple times in the past due to the 4-year-old having a tendency to wander away. Scotland County Sheriff's Office detective Sgt. Jessica Sadovnikov said he's never wandered off the family's sizable property before.

“Based on my training experience and interactions with this child, I don’t think he would have ever gone that far alone, there’s no way,” she said.

Kersey added, “By faith, I believe the little boy is still alive, and that’s what I have to stand on. Until we get something that indicates that there’s no hope ... we’ll continue to do what we’re doing now. I’m praying that we can move forward and continue to treat this as a search and rescue.”

“I just don’t know if somebody took him or if he’s lost in the woods or if something happened to him in the water,” his mother Annie said. “I don’t know, I just want him home.”

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released the AMBER Alert description of little Raul.

Be on the lookout for an Indian boy with black hair and brown eyes. He’s 3 feet tall and weighs 38 pounds. He was last seen “wearing white and orange tiger striped shirt with tigers on it and white pants with rocket ships printed on them.”

There is no description of a suspect or suspect’s vehicle. AMBER Alerts are generally reserved for kids who are known to have been abducted but can still be used when authorities have a “reasonable belief” that a child has been abducted and is “at risk for serious bodily harm or death,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Please keep an eye out for Raul! And please pray he will be found soon and unharmed!  In other news, Oprah is finally making it clear whether or not she intends to challenge Trump in 2020.

Next: Oprah Breaks the Silence on 2020 Presidential RunJan 25, 2018