GOLDEN CITY, Mo. — Searchers trickled back into Golden City on horseback and in cars shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday, their faces showing lost hope and a growing sense of grief.
A body had been found a mile northwest of this prairie town of about 760 residents. Police cautioned that a positive identification had yet to be made, but who else could it be but Adriaunna Horton, the 12-year-old with a winning smile, missing since 5 p.m. Monday?
She was last seen getting into a vehicle near the town’s park, where she had been playing with other children.
“We still had hope,” said Karla Abeyta, one of the searchers. “I was praying that she was going to be alive.”
Abeyta, whose boyfriend’s son is a friend of Adriaunna’s father, James Horton, had driven over from Pittsburg, Kan., to help look for the girl. She was one of more than 100 volunteers - more than a dozen of them on horseback - to join the search on its third day.
Searchers had scoured scoured the town Tuesday - out to a perimeter of a mile or more - aided by two K-9 units, the Missouri Highway Patrol, the FBI, seven sheriff's departments, five police departments and the Tri-State Major Case Squad, a group of detectives from Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
On Wednesday, they shifted their attention to fields west of town, on each side of 100th Lane, which runs north to south. The body was discovered about 1:50 p.m., said state patrol Sgt. Mike Watson .
Abeyta said her search party had just crossed a fence line when word came over their handlers' radios and they were told to stop. It was a demoralizing moment up and down the line of searchers, she said.
A friend of the girl’s family, who was on horseback, appeared to pass out with the news. Others rushed to his aid, Abeyta said.
Moments later police called off the search, and the volunteers returned to town.
Watson acknowledged that leads developed by investigators overnight had shifted the search to the fields west of Golden City. He declined to say if their information came from Bobby D. Bourne Jr., the suspect in the girl’s abduction.
Bourne was arrested about 7 p.m. Monday, when a sheriff's deputy stopped his vehicle in Golden City. Bourne, 34, of Lamar, is charged with kidnapping and held on $1 million bond. He could face other charges once the body is identified and an autopsy performed.
Watson declined to describe the state of the body or the spot where it was found. He said Wednesday the identification process could take 24 hours.
Bourne once lived in the Golden City area and worked with Adriaunna's father, James Horton, on home repair jobs. The girl’s mother, Wendi Jackson, of Overland Park, Kan., has been in Golden City since shortly after her daughter’s disappearance was reported.
The girl’s family had expressed optimism as late as Wednesday morning that Adriaunna would found alive. Her paternal grandfather told reporters she was a resourceful girl and a good runner.
Her family and their friends appeared shaken Wednesday afternoon as they attempted to come to grips with the discovery of the body.
Jeff Lehr reports for The Joplin Globe.