Authorities searching for a missing nine-week-old baby say his alleged drug user parents have given multiple different accounts of what happened to him.
Little Chance Walsh’s maternal grandmother contacted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on October 4 after not seeing the boy for nearly a month, police said.
She told cops that the baby’s maternal grandfather last saw his daughter and grandson together at their home on Orduna Drive in North Port on September 9. She added that she also tried to visit them that day and again on September 11, but Bury refused to answer the door.
She and Chance’s paternal grandmother tried in vain to learn where their grandson was, but the baby’s parents told relatives three different stories about what happened to Chance, cops said.
Alleged long-time drug users Kristen Bury, 32, and Joseph Walsh, 36, told relatives that the child had been killed in a car crash in South Carolina, said their son had survived the collision and that he was fine and also claimed to have given Chance to a woman at a hotel in Georgia, according to the sheriff’s office.
Police in South Carolina said there were no baby and no car seat in the vehicle at the time of crash, which occurred on October 2. Though their car was totaled, neither Bury nor Walsh were hurt, officials said.
Law enforcement officials in Georgia confirmed to the sheriff’s office that Bury and Walsh stayed at a hotel in Augusta, but said the couple did not have a baby with them.
Walsh and Bury claimed they gave their son to a woman matching the description of someone staying at the hotel, but that woman reported that Bury tried to sell her baby clothes and noted that Bury said her child had died three weeks earlier, the sheriff’s office said.
“They informed us that they had given the child away because they were robbed in Augusta, Georgia,” said Captain Charlie Thorpe from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
Bury's stepmother told police Bury said she gave her baby to a stranger at the hotel. She noted that Bury allegedly said, "I loved that baby. I can't take care of him," according to an affidavit.
But Chance's mother allegedly also went on to say she "despised" the infant "because he was not Duane," her previously deceased infant, Bury's stepmother said, according to an affidavit.
Sarasota K9 Search and Rescue searched the area near Bury and Walsh's home on October 5, where two cadaver dogs "displayed changes in behavior at the area of the entry door to the apartment, indicating the possible presence of human remains," the affidavit said.
A search warrant was issued for the home, where investigators discovered "small amounts of blood located on the bed pillows, comforter and mattress, as well as a blood spatter pattern high on the walls, door, mirror and light fixture in the bathroom," the affidavit said.
Thorpe would not discuss the evidence, but noted it "added to the suspicion of what we're looking into."
Walsh and Bury was charged with child neglect and they being held on $150,000 bond in Jasper County.
They were awaiting extradition to the Sarasota County Jail on Thursday.
"Our hope of all hopes is that somebody has Chance. Maybe the child was given to them to be cared for. We just can't get the straight story out of Walsh and Bury... My hope of all hope is that that baby is alive somewhere," Thorpe said during a press conference.
"Time is of the essence," he continued. "Everybody wants to know where this child is. Certainly two people in South Carolina have the best information on that and we'd love for them to tell us, but they haven't.
"I get nauseous over these kinds of cases... Over missing persons and I think it's beyond frustrating because somebody knows what happened," Thorpe said. "Just tell us what happened. We're talking about a child here.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is working with the FBI on the case and has issued a bulletin seeking information on Chance and his parents to assist the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Criminal Investigations Section at 941-861-4074.
All tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of Sarasota at 941-366-TIPS (8477). Officials asked only serious tips be reported to the tip line. Tips can also be submitted at www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com.