US

Woman Charged After Leading Police to Apparent Remains of 5-Year-Old Child

By The Associated Press

A Mississippi woman has been charged with capital murder and child neglect after police say she led them to a house basement where they found what could be the remains of a 5-year-old child who had been missing for months.

Celeste Louise Smith, 35, of Meridian, made an initial appearance on Sept. 12, in Meridian city court and her bond was set at $250,000, the Meridian Star reported.

Celeste Louise Smith
Celeste Louise Smith, 35, of Meridian, Miss., appears in Meridian Municipal Court in Meridian, Miss., on Sept. 12, 2019. (Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star via AP)

Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose told WTOK-TV the possible remains were found on Sept. 11, wrapped in garbage bags that were taped shut.

The unopened bags were sent to the state crime lab near Jackson and awaiting results.

Dubose said a woman told police last week that her 5-year-old son with special needs, Jakie Toole, had been missing since April.

The chief said officers interviewed Smith, a family friend who had once taken care of the boy and one of his siblings.

Dubose said Smith led officers first to a wooded area and then to the home where the remains were found.

Jakie is a special needs child who has difficulties with walking and communicating, WTOK-TV reported.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Monday. It wasn’t clear whether Smith is represented by an attorney.

Missing Persons, Missing Children Reports Drop to Lowest in Decades

The reports of missing persons, and missing children in particular, decreased in 2018, reaching levels unseen since the beginning of available FBI data.

Nearly 613,000 Americans were reported missing in 2018, more than 424,000 of them under the age of 18. That’s a drop of almost 6 and 9 percent respectively from the year prior and the lowest shown in available records going as far back as 1990.

The numbers had dropped precipitously from the high of more than 980,000 reported missing in 1997 to less than 628,000 in 2013, but then started to pick up again—until the drop in 2018.

It’s not clear what exactly is behind the latest decrease.

Part of the long-term downward trend may have to do with technology, said Robert Lowery, vice president for the missing children division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Most of the missing children are runaways between 13 and 17, he said in a phone interview. “A lot of these children now have, frankly, cellphones or smartphones. They’re also using social media. … The point being that parents are able to find their children themselves much quicker than they had been, before they have to engage law enforcement.”

Law enforcement techniques to locate missing children have also improved, he said.

But that doesn’t quite explain the sudden drop in 2018. Smartphones and social media have been popular among youth for more than a decade and there seems to be no indication that law enforcement techniques made a sudden advance in 2018.

“It may have been an anomaly,” Lowery said. “We’re going to continue to watch the trend.”

Epoch Times reporter Petr Svab contributed to this report.