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Updated: 11:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 | Posted: 4:46 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, 2013

Missing toddler found safe; Mom charged

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Family of missing toddler photo
Jim Noelker

Joyce Daniels (left) and Tuesday Etchison, the great-aunt and grandmother of Kevin Hunter, wait outside Montgomery County sheriff's district headquarters on Friday night for word about the missing child. He reportedly was taken from his mother's vehicle when she went inside a repair shop.

Kevin Hunter photo
Tuesday Etchison

This is another recent photo of Kevin Hunter, the toddler reported missing.

Jade Smith photo

Jade Smith

Jade Smith photo

This is the booking photo of Jade Smith, who was taken to the Montgomery County Jail on Friday night, Sept. 13, 2013.

By Breaking News Staff

HARRISON TWP. —

A missing toddler has been found tonight and his mother will be arrested on charges of child endangering and inducing panic, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said.

Word that 3-year-old Kevin Hunter has been found in the 1100 block of Anthem Court, in Dayton, began filtering out from the sheriff's office at about 8:50 p.m. "The good news is that he is safe. He is in good health," Plummer said. "Unfortunately, we believe the mother played a game on everybody here. She will be arrested tonight."

The mother, 26-year-old Jade Smith, was taken to the Montgomery County Jail. The child was taken to Dayton Children's Hospital to be checked out.

At about 3:10 p.m., deputies were dispatched to Glass Masters, an auto repair shop at 4950 Payne Ave., where Smith told them someone had taken Kevin from her Chrysler Pacifica. She said she had left Kevin and his 1-year-old brother alone in her car while she went into the shop to see about getting her windshield repaired.

Kevin was taken, she told deputies, in the two minutes she said she was in the shop, Plummer said. The younger child was still in his car seat. Deputies launched their investigation for a missing juvenile based in part on what she told them -- that the windshield had been damaged in some type of domestic dispute.

All that changed by 8:50 p.m.

Smith's report about her missing son stems from something domestic, Plummer said, and she was "getting even with the boyfriend, the father of the children."

Plummer said Smith "dropped the baby off at her mom's house. Her mother was out of town. The baby stood in the backyard and hid in the bushes for six hours by himself. The baby was terrified, while we sat here and listened to her lie about what happened."

The maternal grandmother's home, on Anthem Court, is not far from the sheriff's District 10 headquarters on North Dixie Drive, where a command post had been set up to relay information to Kevin's family members. Several of them waited outside the building, in a vigil of sorts, for information about the case.

Plummer said his deputies did a good job back-tracking and sifting through Smith's "lies."

Hours earlier, as the investigation began at the parking lot of the repair shop, Plummer said the windows on the vehicle were up, but deputies weren't sure the doors were locked. There was no forced entry. At that time, Plummer said it was very early in the investigation, noting, "These days you never know what happened."

Smith's story was "very fishy," the sheriff said, and what she told investigators about how the so-called abduction occurred didn't add up.

Smith did not cooperate with deputies and "lied to us the whole night," Plummer said. The child's family members "were thinking the worst case scenario, that the baby got abducted.... We were worried that the baby might be harmed, due to what she's going through. We all had bad thoughts. I was worried about the baby's health myself."

A problem in obtaining surveillance video from the repair shop actually worked in the favor of investigators, Plummer said. They told Smith they were waiting for that video and used that claim to keep their interrogation of her going.

"She was also aware of that video," Plummer said. "She knew there was video there. She was asking us about that video. She wanted to know what we knew. So that video worked both ways here."







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