Special Reports

Trail of tragedy follows family of missing 8-year-old Boise boy

Robert Manwill
Robert Manwill Photo provided by Boise Police

On the fifth day of an exhaustive search for a missing Boise boy, court documents revealed a family tale of abuse, tragedy and more.

Robert Manwill's mother is on probation for fracturing the skull of Robert's infant half brother, a boy the state removed from her custody.

Robert's mother's boyfriend has been convicted of burglary, battery and possession of drug paraphernalia, and is banned by the courts from being alone with Robert's half sister.

Robert's father, meanwhile, has already lost a son. In 1993, his first wife stabbed their 4-year-old boy in the chest. She spent 10 years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

Boise police won't talk about the family or the details contained in the court documents.

The family has declined to comment except for brief statements by Robert's aunt. But police have repeatedly said they have no suspect - or even evidence to believe there is one - in Robert's Friday night disappearance at the mother's Boise Bench apartment, and have no evidence of any foul play.

"We've had questions from the media ... who we have talked to,what can we say about certain people," Boise police Deputy Chief Jim Kerns said Tuesday. "It's the very nature of police investigations that until the case is concluded - in this case, until we find Robert - specifics and details of this very active priority investigation cannot be released."

Police say the family is cooperating fully.

"We have a single focus - that's to find Robert ... he's an 8-year-old little guy and he needs our help," Kerns said. "We remain hopeful we are going to find Robert."

Here's what the court records say:


Melissa Scott Jenkins pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor charge of injury to a child, after an October 2008 incident that left her infant son with a fractured skull.

According to court records, Jenkins "did willfully inflict" the wound "by striking the child's head on a surface, causing a fracture to the child's skull," on Oct. 19, 2008. She was sentenced to 29 days of work release, fined $75.50 and put on probation for two years.

In February, at least, the child was still in the care of the state Department of Health and Welfare, court documents said.

Jenkins, reached by phone Tuesday, declined comment and directed inquiries to Trisha Burrill, the boy's aunt who has spoken on the family's behalf.

Burrill, flanked by Jenkins and several other family members, addressed a group of reporters Tuesday night while clutching Robert's teddy bear.

"We are a joined family at this time in this crisis," Burrill said. "We are acting as one, with one goal in mind. To bring Robert back."


Daniel Edward Ehrlick - Jenkins' boyfriend and the father of her infant son - has served time in Idaho prisons and faced multiple charges.

An April 2008 court document outlining Jenkins' visitation rights with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter states that the girl shall never be left "alone with Danny Ehrlick." The document does not say why.

Ehrlick, too, attended press conferences with the family.


Robert Manwill's father, Charles Manwill, has had custody of the boy since January 2008, according to court records.

The records show Jenkins was admitted to the hospital that month for early pregnancy complications and was unable to care for Robert, who has lived with his dad in New Plymouth ever since. Jenkins has visitation rights, and the boy was visiting her the night he disappeared.

Almost 15 years earlier, Manwill was an officer at Fort Polk Military Base in Louisiana, in his early 20s and married to a woman named Silke Fatma Manwill.

In November 1993, according to federal court documents and Louisiana newspaper reports, Silke Manwill "upon sudden quarrel and in the heat of passion" stabbed their 4-year-old son, Michael, in the chest.

She was charged with first-degree murder; that charge was dropped when she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

She served 10 years in federal prison and was released in 2002, federal documents show. Her sentence included five more years of supervised release.

Bethann Stewart contributed to this report. Patrick Orr: 373-6619

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