Special Reports

Search intensifies for missing 8-year-old Boise boy

Teams of volunteers join with Boise police Monday in searching for Robert Manwill, missing since Friday night in the area of South Vista in Boise. Officials said the boy could hide in a very small space if he wanted to. "Act like you're looking for a lost baseball," Officer Will Reimers told the volunteers.
Teams of volunteers join with Boise police Monday in searching for Robert Manwill, missing since Friday night in the area of South Vista in Boise. Officials said the boy could hide in a very small space if he wanted to. "Act like you're looking for a lost baseball," Officer Will Reimers told the volunteers. Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

Pam Yancey skipped her hair appointment Monday afternoon when a pair of plainclothes FBI agents showed up at her Oak Park Village apartment in Boise.

Yancey answered questions, filled out a questionnaire and let the men search her apartment and her car. It was the third time since Friday that law enforcement officials had come knocking, and the second time she let them search her apartment.

She said she didn't mind because scores of local and federal police officers and hundreds of volunteers are conducting an unprecedented search for an 8-year-old boy who has been missing since Friday night.

"I just hope they find the kid," Yancey said.

Boise police say family and others last saw Robert Manwill on a playground at the apartment complex where his mother lives. He went missing between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday, according to Deputy Chief Jim Kerns. Police say there is no evidence of foul play.

The complex is about a half-mile north of Interstate 84, just off of bustling Vista Avenue. It's near the strip mall on Vista that has a liquor store and the Willowcreek Grill, and has three entrances - on Cherry Lane, Targhee Street and Shoshone Street.

Cars were stopped on Vista Avenue on Friday night so police could talk to motorists about whether they'd seen the missing boy. Two motorists complained to the Boise Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy that the checkpoints were too intrusive.

Byron Ryals was dismayed when the officer asked for his driver's license and called in his license plate.

"I've never been through a checkpoint like this, where I was shaken down," said Ryals, 80, noting that the 40-minute wait meant his wife didn't get her medication on time that night.

The police department underscored the gravity of the situation Monday.

"This is the most important investigation that we have had in a long time," Boise police Chief Michael Masterson said at a press conference Monday.

Kerns said he's been with the Boise Police Department for 27 years and doesn't remember another child going missing for this long. The department took 154 missing-child reports last year and 86 through June this year - and most are quickly resolved. The department said it filed within a few hours of the report the paperwork for an Amber Alert - a fast and wide-ranging notice designed to find abducted children - but it didn't meet the necessary criteria, including a reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred.

Police are investigating about 75 tips received since Friday. An Oak Park pond was drained, but no evidence found.

Initial reports indicated that the boy may have gone to a birthday party, but police have since said they found no evidence of a party.

The search area expanded Monday and police asked for public help in the hopes that someone might find the boy in one of the many "nooks and crannies" in or near his neighborhood. Police urged residents to look for any place a boy might hide - under bushes, in cars or garages.

"The family has said that he likes to sneak around and crawl in little places. He's an inquisitive little kid," said police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower.

From an Idaho National Guard helicopter, police scanned the New York Canal and nearby railroad tracks and pools. Police interviewed sex offenders registered in the area.

About 126 volunteers from the community teamed up with police officers for a ground search of public areas starting about noon Monday. The search teams were looking beyond the half-mile radius from the apartment where the boy was staying with his mom to about 1 mile away, Boise police Lt. Michael Majors said. A similar police-volunteer effort focused on the inner circle Sunday.

Robert lives with his father in New Plymouth, but was visiting his mother and her family Friday, police said.

Another ground search will be conducted Tuesday, Majors said. He praised Idaho Mountain Search & Rescue Unit coordinating volunteers who showed up to help.

The search-and-rescue workers also responded to a police request for search dogs Saturday and Monday. Spokesman Rick Thompson said they were air-scent dogs; such dogs are good for finding missing people in avalanche debris. A second request seeks tracking dogs, which are trained to hone in on specific scents.

Boise residents Sherry Blanchard and Debbie Pew weren't part of the official search Monday, but they were out in the Oak Park neighborhood with fliers in hand to search for the boy. They looked under trees and bushes as they walked near the Oak Park apartments.

"It's just heartbreaking," Blanchard said.

The pair said they - along with a team of Boise police officers - had already looked in an abandoned house for the boy.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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