KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Police say a child was missing for two hours before he was found near a school on North Green Hills Road in the Northland, but what happened during the frantic search has police investigating.
Police say on Tuesday the child wandered into some woods about 200 yards behind Russell Jones School. Two hours later the toddler was found safe and his father was arrested on a city charge.
Twenty-two-year-old Laine Smith said she was at work Tuesday afternoon when her frantic husband, Michael Jestice, called her in a panic and said their two-year-old son Damien wandered away from home all by himself.
“That was the worst phone call of my life,” she said. “You turn around to grab something and, you know, that three seconds, you know, he walks away.”
By the time Smith arrived home more than two dozen neighbors, passers-by and police had begun scouring the Northland neighborhood looking for Damien. What’s more is that police say when they first got there, 24-year-old Jestice initially lied and claimed he was a family friend helping in the search for the missing toddler.
But, investigators say another family friend told officers that Jestice was hiding in the attic of his home.
“As far as I know that is not accurate,” Smith said.
Angel Wellesley, a neighbor and friend, also said he wasn’t hiding in the attic.
“No, he was searching with me,” Wellesley said.
Police took Jestice into custody. The suspect’s wife and neighbor insisted the worried father’s number one concern was finding his child.
“He immediately ran into the woods after we realized he wasn’t just right here. He did everything that a good father does, you know, screamed and hollered for his son and searched under every nook and cranny,” Wellesley said.
Two hour after Damien disappeared, police say a maintenance worker at Lake Waukomis spotted the little guy, safe in some woods behind Russell Jones School about a block away from his family’s house.
“He’s fine like, you know, safe. He’s got a few scratches,” Smith said. “He loves being outside and he just wanted to go exploring, I guess.”
Damien is the couple’s only child. In August, Jestice will have to go to court on a city charge of child endangerment.