Yesterday started out like any other summer day. The house cool and quiet early in the morning. I got up and ran the sprinklers, fed the cats, unloaded the dishwasher. Those mundane things we do in the morning, but which at this time of the year, with the light streaming in, give me such joy. Summer mornings are my favorite time of the year.
Then, as is my usual routine, I turned on my iPhone to check email and read Facebook posts. I go to bed early and most people keep posting, way into the late night, and there is always so much to read in the mornings. Yesterday, though, I was immediately hit with the top post telling me that a little boy from our church had disappeared the day before. Police, FBI, and our pastor were on the hunt for him.
This little guy, 10 years old, is the brother to a little girl I had in my Sunday School class this past year. He was in the class next door to mine and I would see him every Sunday. He and his sister walk to church as they live only a couple of blocks away. The parents do not attend church but I would often see their mother, who also grew up in the church, on campus for certain events.
In the early hours there was little information except that he did not come home the previous evening. These children are left to their own devices during the day, especially with school vacation being in effect, and they wander the streets. I sent out a post to all my Facebook friends to pray for his safe return. My lovely summer morning had taken an ominous turn.
As the morning wore on, and searches were made, our church’s new pastor put out a request from the FBI that church members deliver meals to the family. It was a tangible thing I could do so I called the office and set up a schedule for meals after which I when to Target and bought a supply of paper plates, cups, utensils, etc., so the family wouldn’t have to wash dishes. I got food for breakfast and a box of ice cream bars as I had been told the little sister was asking for ice cream.
Upon arriving in the neighborhood where the family lives, only blocks from our church, I was greeted with streets filled with police cars and TV trucks. On the family’s street, the TV cameras were set up in many of the neighbor’s yards with interviews being done as I hauled the food supplies to the house. I was stopped outside by a Fresno police officer and an FBI agent who told me the house was being processed and I would not be allowed in. They were quite pleased, though, that I had come bearing food and allowed the mother to take it in.
The day progressed with few updates except that the police were going door-to-door, a nearby canal was being searched, a helicopter was circling the area. Late in the afternoon I got word that the boy had been seen at a nearby school and the police were there, investigating. Just as the 5 o’clock news was starting word came that the boy had been found, alive. Our prayers had been answered.
This morning, another typically warm Fresno day has begun. The cats fed, the sprinklers run, the dishwasher emptied. This is the news article from the morning paper:
Levon McDaniel, 36, was arrested after an officer spotted him walking with the boy near Fresno and Ashlan avenues around 4:15 p.m., said Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer.
The arrest capped a day-long hunt by dozens of law enforcement officers, the FBI and volunteers for Michael Letendre, who had gone to a friend’s home about midday on Wednesday and failed to return home that night.
His panicked mother called police to report her son missing, launching a hunt of the neighborhood in the 900 block of East Lansing Avenue. Even a nearby canal was checked.
Police got a break when a neighborhood juvenile told a detective he saw Michael on Wednesday with McDaniel, the juvenile’s godfather.
An officer later spotted the boy and McDaniel in central Fresno. Dyer said the two apparently had known each other. He said there was no evidence the boy was harmed.
“We do not know if Michael was with McDaniel voluntarily, forced to be with him or … was prevented from escaping,” Dyer said. “But he definitely concealed Michael from the police department and his parents.”
Michael was turned over to Child Protective Services as the investigation is ongoing, he said.
There is more to this story than I have told you, as you can probably guess by that last paragraph. The little sister has also been removed from the house and on last night’s news, the mother told the reporter that she hoped to have the children returned to the family’s home on Monday. I continue to pray for these children, who although found, still have a ways to go before being safe at home.