Special Reports

The search for Robert: Investigators bring in buckets, shovels into backyard of Southwest Boise home

Hundreds of people wait in line Friday morning to register at South Junior High School to join a massive, public search for missing 8-year-old Boise boy Robert Manwill.
Hundreds of people wait in line Friday morning to register at South Junior High School to join a massive, public search for missing 8-year-old Boise boy Robert Manwill. Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

8:44 p.m.

Crime scene investigators have brought buckets and shovels and set up a canopy with walls in the backyard of the home at the 6600 block of Southdale Avenue.

6:38 p.m.

More than 2,300 volunteers turned out to search today.

"The search was extremely helpful," Boise police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said. Specific areas of interest now have to be searched by trained investigators.

"Developing leads" led police to the house on Southdale where investigators have converged Friday evening.

6:17 p.m.

Investigators are searching the house on Southdale Avenue, looking for evidence that could be related to the disappearance of Robert Manwill

5:53 p.m.Ada County Sheriff's Office crime scene investigators are preparing to do a multi-agency search of a house on Southdale Avenue in Southwest Boise. Boise police department will be lead agency for the search.

Officials at the scene said they are waiting for a search warrant.

5:45 p.m.

Dave Neal, director of Ada County's solid waste management, said the part of the dump where Saturday's refuse was taken has been left alone since then.

Friday, an Ada County sheriff's deputy officially cordoned it off with crime scene tape.

If police ask, the landfill workers can take Saturday's trash a foot at a time and lay it out flat, with a bulldozer, to be sifted through, Neal said.

3:27 p.m.

Boise police say they don't plan to have another update until noon Saturday.

If developments call for an additional briefing, the media will be notified, spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said.

3:15 p.m. An Ada County sheriff's deputy has been asked to guard a portion of the Hidden Hollow Landfill for Boise police and make sure nothing is disturbed. A spokeswoman said the officer at the scene drives a crime scene investigation truck.

The officer has cordoned off a section of the dump — people are still taking trash to other parts of the landfill.

2:49 p.m.

Daniel Edward Ehrlick, the boyfriend of Robert's mother, was admitted to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center but has been released, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

She was unable to say when he entered the hospital or for what he was treated.

2:20 p.m. As of 2 p.m., counted from all three staging locations, there were 1,687 volunteers. The 3 p.m. search will continue, and they plan to cover much of the same ground, just to be sure.

As one group of volunteers finished their shift, Boise Officer Kip Wills thanked them.

"No matter what, this is still a missing child," he said. "Your efforts are not wasted, they're not in vain. It's easy to get jaded."

"Officers have been out working for six days, but we're parents, too. If it were our kid, we would want everyone to be out looking."

1:14 p.m.

Here's what came from the press conference — the latest news still — as recapped by Statesman police reporter Patrick Orr:

Boise police say they have discovered undisclosed evidence that shows “suspicious circumstances” in the disappearance of 8-year-old Robert Manwill and that he “may indeed be injured — or the victim of a tragic event.”

But Boise police have not identified a suspect or person of interest in the case, and officials say they still need the hundreds of citizen volunteers scouring the Vista neighborhood to look for Robert.

“Robert is still missing. It’s very important we locate Robert and or find any evidence that may help us locate where he is or where he isn’t,” Boise Police Deputy Chief Jim Kerns told a group of reporters Friday afternoon.

Kerns said volunteers should report anything that looks “suspiciously out of place ... that may point to where Robert is. Even if we find nothing, we’ve learned where Robert isn’t. That too is helpful.”

For the second time in 12 hours Friday morning, Boise police detectives and crime scene investigators searched the apartment from where Robert disappeared. Police officials haven’t said what the evidence is that leads them to believe Robert was injured but did say that was what officers were concentrating on Friday.

“It’s the response from this community, Robert’s family, and the shy smile of the little boy on the missing (person) poster that keeps us investigators going,” Kerns said.

Manwill’s family members, including his father, Charles Manwill and his aunt, Trish Burrill, attended Friday’s press conference. Some wiped tears away from their eyes as Kerns spoke.

Burrill once again thanked the public for all their support and help in trying to find Robert.

“As a family, and as a whole, we want everyone not to give up hope,” Burrill said. “Please help us to bring Robert home.”

Boise police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said the two afternoon volunteer search sessions will proceed. Police officials thought they may get between 600 and 1,000 volunteers for all three shift but may have reached that for the 9 a.m. shift Friday.

Hightower said officials have not been able to count the exact number of volunteers so far but say the public response is “unprecedented."

1:04 p.m.

Boise Police Officer Kip Wills, ordinarily a traffic officer who works with search and rescue as well, is leading a group of volunteers searching an area bounded by Iowa, Linden, Broadway and Gekeler.

The area includes Ivywild Park, which has one of the nicest public swimming pools in town, so there's a reasonable chance you could find a child here, Wills said. It's a distance from Oak Village Apartments, but it's conceivable a kid could make his way here.

Searchers in this group did find blood on the sidewalk, but it turned out to be a dog with a torn paw.

12:15 p.m.

So far, 185 people have been checked in at Garfield Elementary for the noon search — the second round of volunteer units being sent to the streets.

Though Boise police say "suspicious circumstances" surround Robert Manwill's disappearance and he may be injured or "the victim of a tragic event," they are still sending out searchers, saying he could be alive and any evidence pointing to where he is could save his life.

But they are also asking people to look for anything out of the ordinary, and said the efforts are now a crime investigation.

12:10 p.m.

While much of Robert Manwill's family, including his father, Chuck Manwill, and his aunt, Trish Burrill, attended the press conference, his mother and her boyfriend were not there.

Police searched their apartment Thursday night and began to cordon it off again mid-morning Friday.

12:08 p.m.

Robert Manwill's aunt, Trish Burrill, tearfully called on the volunteers to keep searching.

12:01 p.m.

Deputy Chief Jim Kerns said police found evidence last night that "suspicious circumstances" surround Robert Manwill's disappearance.

He said the search will continue, because he could still be alive, even if he's injured.

11:47 a.m.

As police prepare for a hastily moved up noon press conference, here is a look at some of the people who turned up Friday to search for missing Robert Manwill.

Police say about 1,000 people showed up for the first two-hour shift — the outside goal of the whole day's search.

So many residents showed up at the Hillcrest branch library for the 9 a.m. search that police turned about 150 people away. Many of those said they would be back at noon.

Here are some of the people who gave their time:

— Michael Shoe has to be to work at Jackson's by 2 p.m., but he and his wife, Lisa, of Garden City, wanted to give their time anyway.

— Jenny McCullough, a mother and second-grade teacher of Boise, said Robert is about the age of her school kids and she had to help.

— Vinson Guadagno of Caldwell only moved to Idaho six months ago, but he believes in giving back. He remembers when his community in Florida came together several years ago to help his family after his daughter was in a motorcycle accident.

— Among the searchers were 54 black-shirt clad members of Centennial Job Corps from Nampa. One of them, Jeff Williams, 22, said he wanted to help for several reasons, including the fact he had two younger sisters.

“If I was in the same situation, I would appreciate any help I could get. I know how it would feel if it was one of my sisters — I just want to help,” Williams said. “We also feel the need to give somethingback to the community, since we get federal funding.”

11:38 a.m.

More on last night's raid:

Sean Buffington, who lives in the apartment above Melissa Sue Jenkins at the Oak Park Village complex at Vista Avenue and Targee Street, said he returned home Thursday night to find her apartment and the area sealed off with police tape.

Buffington said he saw police doing “mostly CSI type of stuff inside (Jenkins') apartment, like taking pictures and carrying stuff in bags,” as they searched Thursday night. He met with a group of neighbors to swap information Thursday night, but no one really had anything new.

“Police are keeping a pretty tight lid on this,” Buffington said.

Buffington said he met Jenkins and her family a few times but didn’t really know them too well.Earlier Thursday, the FBI called Buffington to ask if they could search the small crawl-space attic of his apartment, which they did.

Oak Park maintenance man William Clark said he has been impressed with how thorough and polite the Boise Police and FBI have been during the searches over the last week — and the long, overtime hours they have been working “The police are doing a wonderful job ... they have been totally dedicated,” Clark said. “Money doesn’t matter at all when it comes to a life.”

10:49 a.m.

Boise police have moved up a press conference to noon from 2 p.m., urging media to attend.

IdahoStatesman.com will have breaking news and video from the event.

10:30 a.m.

Boise police are closing off the portion of Oak Park Village apartments where Robert Manwill's mother lives.

Detectives and crime scene investigators placed cones to block the driveway and are hanging crime scene tape to block off the area.

Police searched the apartment and impounded at least one vehicle Thursday night.

9:31 a.m.

Hundreds of people lined up at the Hillcrest branch library Friday morning.

There were so many people, officials were asking for some to head to the other two search staging areas — where hundreds of others had already appeared.

Mayor Dave Bieter walked down the line, shaking hands and thanking people for volunteering.

"We hoped for a good turnout like this but this is amazing," he told them. "This says a lot about our community."

Bieter said people have been taking time off from work to show up.

"It's just great. I've heard of people coming from just as far away as Oregon," he said. "There are so many things in this situation that you can't effect. It's nice to see people doing what we can. That's what makes Boise a great place to live."

9 a.m.

Volunteers are heading out from three staging areas Friday morning for what police expect to be an unprecedented search for a missing Boise boy.

Eight-year-old Robert Manwill disappeared last Friday night from the area around his mother's apartment off Vista Avenue and Targee Street.

Area police, the FBI and more than 100 volunteers have searched throughout the week.

Volunteers are leaving South Junior High in groups of 20 or 30 — each group gets an officer to lead it and each individual has been issued a vest, a wristband, a flier with information and a map. They are processing people very smoothly.

At least 200 people came to both South and Garfield Elementary. Search organizers are encouraging people who plan to help out throughout the day to dress for the heat and bring water. The temperature in Boise is expected to reach about 96 degrees Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Sgt. Greg Oster, the officer in charge at Garfield, told the crowd there was no way officers could do this without their help. He thanked them for following the ground rules (no one under 18, no dogs, no strollers).

The reason they're being adamant about the age requirement, he said, was that they didn't want to put a child in the position of finding evidence that something bad had happened.

A family member called for a prayer at Garfield and a volunteer from a church led it.

The groups are being told that they are only searching public areas — alleys, streets, parks — not private property. They are specifically looking for Robert or any items that could lead to his location — such as clothing or personal effects.

At South, family members were making green ribbons and handing them out.

The Red Cross of Greater Idaho is supporting the search effort at the three staging areas.

The group will "provide water and snacks to the hundreds of volunteers expected to participate in the search," CEO Sue Robinson said. "The Red Cross has extensive experience in this kind of mass care need and we are pleased to support law enforcement, the family and the community in this endeavor."

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