Missing 3-Year-Old Found Dead in River, Mother and Boyfriend Arrested

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
July 10, 2019USshare
Missing 3-Year-Old Found Dead in River, Mother and Boyfriend Arrested
Kimberly Dawn Moore (L), the mother of Josie Burleson, and Moore's boyfriend Adrian Neil Puckett in booking photographs. They were arrested and charged after Josie was found in the New River in Virginia early July 10, 2019. (Wythe County Sheriff's Office)

A missing 3-year-old Virginia girl was found dead in a river on July 10, authorities said.

Josie Burleson was reported missing on July 9 around 7:30 p.m.

Josie’s mother, Kimberly Dawn Moore, and Moore’s boyfriend Adrian Neil Puckett, told sheriff’s deputies that the girl was playing outside near the New River Trail and wandered off, according to the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office.

The couple was inside a rental house that’s located within 150 yards of the river.

“A search was conducted within minutes of first responder’s arrival to the scene,” the office stated. “There were over 100 searchers looking for the child in the fields, trails, and in the water. This search was continuous for over five and a half hours.”

The Wythe County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Lead Mines Rescue Squad, Virginia State Police, New River Trail Police, Virginia Conservation Police, Wytheville Police Department, Pulaski Fire Department, and Black Diamond Search and Rescue in the search.

Around 1 a.m. on July 10, the body of Josie was found in the river.

Shortly after, Moore and Puckett were taken into custody.

According to the sheriff’s office, they were both charged with felony child neglect with reckless disregard for life and felony child endangerment.

“More charges could be pending as this is an ongoing investigation,” the office stated.

Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan told WDBJ that Moore and Pickett were under the influence of meth when Josie went missing.

He said that over the 36 years he’s been sheriff, several drownings have happened in the New River.

“When it’s a small child, it’s really different. Probably the worst thing for the responders is the fact that it is a small child because it tugs at your heart a little bit more,” he said.

Missing Children

There were 424,066 missing children reported in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in 2018, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Under federal law, when a child is reported missing to law enforcement they must be entered into the database. In 2017, there were 464,324 entries.

“This number represents reports of missing children. That means if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance would be entered into NCIC separately and counted in the yearly total. Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total,” the center noted.

The center said it assisted officers and families with the cases of more than 25,00 missing children. In those cases, 92 percent were endangered runaways, 4 percent were family abductions, 3 percent were critically missing young adults between the ages of 17 and 21, 1 percent were lost, injured, or otherwise missing children, and less than one percent were nonfamily abductions.

The center was founded by John and Revé Walsh and other child advocates in 1984 as a private, non-profit organization to serve as the national clearinghouse and resource center for information about missing and exploited children.

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