Forty-eight hours after 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez was reportedly last seen, Wichita police told media that he remained missing as officers continued to widen their search Monday.
The only new development that police relayed to media Monday afternoon was that police had extended their search to Dr. Glen Dey Park, near 25th and Grove. The search party there included four officers on horseback, one on an ATV and dozens of officers on foot in cold, damp weather under gray skies. Some of the officers walked in a line across grassy areas.
During a news conference at City Hall, closed for Presidents Day, Officer Charley Davidson said he could not provide any details about the investigation. He did confirm that officers had searched Chisholm Creek Park after their investigation led them there.
The parks lie on the north side of Wichita, about 5 miles from the southside rental home where Lucas’ family had just recently moved.
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No arrests have been made, and Davidson never alluded to any suspicion of a crime. He repeatedly said that police, assisted by the FBI, were being thorough.
He asked for the public to help by sharing information about Lucas, including his “missing” poster, on Facebook. If anyone has information on Lucas or his whereabouts, police ask that they call the tip line at 316-383-4661.
Although police appreciate offers to help them search, they have adequate resources for the job, Davidson said.
Lucas was reported missing at about 6:15 p.m. Saturday in the 600 block of South Edgemoor. When officers arrived, police said, the boy’s 26-year-old stepmother said he was last seen at about 3 p.m. Saturday in his bedroom before she showered and fell asleep.
A neighbor, Leigh Burgess, said that another neighbor came to her Saturday evening, saying that the woman who lives in between them was upset because her child was missing. He was helping her to search. Not long afterward, police arrived. They focused on the back yard of the home where Lucas lives. Police also searched her yard, Burgess said.
Two days earlier, on Thursday morning, Burgess saw her new neighbors across the street. A woman and a small child were on their knees, busily clearing out a flower bed. Burgess thought the child looked younger than 5 – Lucas’ age – and thought the child might be a girl. They were gone from the yard before Burgess could introduce herself.
Before that, on Tuesday, Burgess noticed a large white SUV backed into the garage and thought it was people moving in.
Court records show that Lucas has lived with his father, not with his biological mother. Relatives say that the father often works out of town.
The father’s Facebook page shows him in family pictures with a woman and three other young children besides Lucas. The father has posted pictures of his son since he was a chubby-cheeked toddler, his Facebook page shows.
Some relatives have told The Eagle that they had previously reported concerns about Lucas’ welfare to the Kansas Department for Children and Families. One relative provided a letter showing that DCF was investigating as of May. A DCF spokeswoman wouldn’t comment Monday on any prior investigation.
“We share the public’s concern regarding Lucas Hernandez,” Theresa Freed of DCF said in an email. “In the event the agency has information, we will share it with law enforcement, assisting them as requested. The Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) is legally prohibited from publicly discussing its possible history with this family.”
The search for Lucas was growing by Sunday evening. Police officers using at least one dog searched Chisholm Creek Park, between Oliver and Woodlawn and north of 29th.
By Monday morning, police had blocked off entrances to the park and deployed horse trailers to the parking lot outside Great Plains Nature Center at the park. Also Monday, about a dozen officers gathered to search a separate park area directly north of Chisholm Creek park on the north side of K-96.
Police have said that they found no evidence of an abduction, which is why an Amber Alert was not activated.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team is assisting the Police Department.
Lucas was born Dec. 3, 2012, has brown hair and brown eyes, is about 4 feet tall and weighs about 60 pounds. He was last seen wearing black sweats, white socks and a gray shirt with a bear on it.
He attends Beech Elementary School.
Contributing: Jason Tidd of The Eagle