A 6-year-old boy who was reported missing by his father in August has been found safe, hidden in an attic crawl space in the southwest Missouri home of his mother and her boyfriend, authorities said.
Braedence Jones was found in the crawl space with his mother, Aubrey Ferguson, at a home south of Camdenton in rural LaClede County, the Camden County Sheriff's Department said.
Ferguson's boyfriend, Woodrow Ziegler, had nailed the entrance of the crawl space shut, put carpet over it and pushed furniture against it before officers from the U.S. Marshal's service and Laclede County arrived with a search warrant after receiving a tip, said Camden County Sheriff's Lt. Arlyne Page. She didn't know how the officers found the crawl space.
The boy was reunited with his father, Ryan Jones, of Bourbon, on Tuesday. Jones reported Braedence missing on August 3 when his mother took off rather than returning the boy after a weeklong visit. Ferguson was charged with child abduction.
"He seems to be physically OK," Page said of Braedence. "But since his abduction, the mother hasn't allowed him to go to school and more than likely has not taken him to a doctor if he needed one. We are hoping to help his father find counselling for him."
A probable cause statement said that when Jones went to a Camdenton home on August 12 to pick up Braedence, no one was there. The house next door where Ferguson's parents live also was empty. Jones said Ferguson told him in text messages that the boy was safe but would not say where she was, according to the affidavit. He said Ferguson turned off her phone between texts so she could not receive calls.
Since then, law enforcement officials received several tips both in the region and out of state, Page said. Surveillance footage from stores confirmed the boy was with his mother and pings from her phone indicated they were moving around to elude capture, she said.
The U.S. Marshal Service's Violent Fugitive Task Force began assisting in the search several weeks ago and finally received reliable information on the boy Tuesday, Page said.
Ferguson, and her boyfriend, Woodrow Ziegler, were arrested. Charges are being pursued in Laclede and possibly Camden counties, Page said.