March 25, 2016 - 8:55 AM
AUSTIN, Man. - The distraught parents of a missing toddler in rural Manitoba made a tearful plea Thursday for any information that might lead to a reunion with their son.
Thomas Martens and Destiny Turner made a brief appearance outside their home near Austin to say it would be unusual for two-year-old Chase to go off by himself.
"It is unlike our son to wander off of our property, and, if he ever went anywhere, he would always have our dog with him," Martens read from a prepared statement.
He said they were looking for answers that could help bring Chase home.
"Anyone with information, please find it in your hearts to do the right thing and come forward," Martens, with his wife at his side, read through tears.
"If someone has our son, please bring him home. We won't be angry. We will be forgiving and grateful. We are devastated to have our son taken from us.
"Me — dad — mom and Chase's two big sisters pray every moment that Chase is safe."
Police have not ruled out foul play, but have said it is not the focus of their investigation. They said an Amber Alert was not issued because they didn't have any information to suggest he had been abducted.
The Martens said they are overwhelmed with the support they have received and how the community has come together to look for their boy.
The search involving hundreds of people on foot and horseback, driving ATVs and in the air expanded Thursday to include creeks and shorelines within a three-kilometre radius of the home. RCMP Sgt. Bert Paquet said underwater dive teams were brought in, since most of the dry land around the property had already been combed over.
"There is a lot of hope that ... further examinations of bodies of water ... will answer the one question we are trying to answer," Paquet said.
Searchers were mindful that a lot of time had passed since Chase vanished, he said.
"Obviously we are talking about quite an amount of time in elements that are extremely challenging for a two-year-old boy," he said. "Knowing what we have dealt with before in similar circumstances, we have to be open to all possibilities.
"While we remain hopeful, we also have to keep in mind that the worst-case scenario is something that cannot be forgotten at this point."
Volunteer Michelle Richards travelled with her mother, Kim, from Portage la Prairie to help in the search.
"I've got a three-year-old at home, so I couldn't honestly imagine what the parents are going through," she said. "For him to just be gone, it's terrifying."
His parents last saw Chase playing in the yard around suppertime Tuesday. He was wearing a blue jacket, black splash pants, a red hat and boots that light up as he walks. He is described as being 2 1/2 feet tall and weighing 30 pounds. He has blue eyes and light-brown hair.
"We need to keep in mind all possible avenues, all possible scenarios. We owe it to the family to keep open minds about what is happening," Paquet said.
No physical evidence has been found and police are still looking for any clues or tips that may help in the investigation, he said.
"If anyone has any kind of information ... give us a call."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016