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Aneth toddler still missing

WINDOW ROCK

As off the press deadline on Wednesday, five days had passed since Anndine Jones, 4, was last seen at her home in Aneth, Utah.

Courtesy photo / Navajo Nation Police

Navajo Police is asking the public to help locate Andanndine Jones, 3, who went missing on Thursday from her home in Aneth, Utah. Police describe her as being between 2’- 2’6” tall, weighing 35 pounds, with black eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a white shirt and light blue pants. If she is found, call the Shiprock Police Department at 505-368-1350/1351.

Her footprints are all that could be found of her when a massive search began, police say. After three days of searching by air, water and land, hopes of finding her are still strong despite search and rescue operations being scaled back Sunday.

Police said what they know so far is that Jones walked away from her home to McElmo Creek, which is about 500 feet from the family’s front doorstep. Her tracks were traced to the embankment of the creek, which was overflowing with runoff from recent winter storms. But the tracks disappear after that, Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco said.

He added their investigations led them to believe Jones was not abducted, nor was there any foul play in her disappearance. During the intensive three-day search that began a day after she disappeared, scores of police and emergency personnel and hundreds of volunteers converged in Aneth, Utah, where Jones lives. Officials concentrated their searches along the creek, near the family homestead, which is located about three miles north of the Aneth Chapter House.

The creek is a tributary to the San Juan River that flows south and through the small community. According to Francisco, the creek’s embankments are thick with Russian olive trees, which made it dangerous and nearly impossible for searchers to look for the girl. Divers from the Farmington Fire Department were called in, who then used boats and dove into the brown water to look for Jones in the entanglement of tree trunks and twisted branches.

As divers carefully swam the creek and river, the Navajo Nation Police, San Juan County, Utah, Sheriff’s Office, San Juan County Fire Department and hundreds of volunteers searched the area. Two helicopters were used as well as drones and kayaks, Francisco said. Francisco said on Saturday volunteers and personnel started their search simultaneously.

One team began from the west end near the community of Bluff and another started from the east end of Aneth. The combined search spanned a total of 24 miles. After an exhaustive search, Francisco said they did not find anything. On Saturday evening, the order was given by the Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management to suspend operations. On Sunday the family of the four-year-old girl continued looking for her, said Francisco.

Francisco explained the suspension of the search did not mean it was cancelled. “The Navajo Department of Emergency Management is managing it. The police department is going to be probably just following up on anything that they find. If they find clothing or diapers by the river then we’re going to go out and check it out,” he said on Tuesday. “Or if any other leads come up, we will go and check it out.”

He indicated that possibilities lean towards Jones falling into the river, but would not say she may have succumbed and become a victim of the raging waters. “We have no other information or leads to say otherwise,” he said on Tuesday. Aneth Chapter’s secretary-treasurer Brenda Brown said on Wednesday that Jones’ family has been continuing to organize daily searches for their baby girl. Volunteers now go to their home if they wish to help look for her, she added.

Francisco said Jones’ information has been entered into the National Crime Information Center. Navajo Police issued a missing person advisory for Jones, which says she stands about three to four feet tall, weighs 35 pounds, with brown hair and black eyes, and was last seen wearing a white shirt and light blue pants.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Shiprock Police District at 505-368-1350 or 1351, Francisco said.