A Florida infant who went missing when he was just nine weeks old may have been found dead in the woods, officials said.
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office said on Thursday they uncovered an infant’s body they believed to be little Chance Walsh, who was last seen with his parents on September 9 and was reported missing by his grandparents on October 4. Police found what they believed to be Chance’s remains in a wooded area of North Port after getting a tip.
“We received information directing us to a location on Elliot Ct. and we have confirmed our worst fears,” Sheriff Tom Knight said in a release.
The baby’s body was found about 13 miles away the home where Chance lived with his parents, alleged long-time drug users Kristen Bury, 32 and Joseph Walsh, 36.
Medical examiners are working to confirm the identity of the infant, but Knight said during a press conference that officials are confident the body belongs to Chance.
“Many people have worked tirelessly with the hope of bringing Chance home alive,” Knight said.
Investigators in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia searched for the infant after his parents allegedly lied repeatedly about their son’s whereabouts.
Chance was first reported missing by his maternal grandmother, who contacted the sheriff’s department on October 4 after not seeing the boy for nearly a month, police said.
She and Chance’s paternal grandmother tried in vain to learn where their grandson was, but Bury and Walsh told relatives three different stories about what happened to Chance, cops said.
The couple told relatives that the child had been killed in a car crash in South Carolina, then 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. None of their stories proved to be true.
Two cadaver dogs that searched the couple's property after Chance was initially reported missing "displayed changes in behavior at the area of the entry door to the apartment, indicating the possible presence of human remains," an affidavit said.
A search warrant was then 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.
Bury's stepmother had 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 baby boy "because he was not Duane," her previously deceased infant, Bury's stepmother said, according to an affidavit.
Duane Jacob Walsh died two weeks after birth in 2014, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Neighbors at the time questioned whether dogs killed the baby, but Bury said he likely died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the newspaper reported.
Sarasota County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega said at the time the investigation into Duane’s death may be reopened depending on the outcome of Chase’s disappearance. The paper reported that no significant injuries were found on Duane, but there was a significant acute kidney infection, which was the first of its kind Vega found during an infant autopsy.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Chance’s grandparents and other family members at this time,” Knight said.
Bury and Walsh remain in custody in South Carolina, where they were charged with neglect and held on $150,000 bond. Police said they couple, who have prior arrests for drugs, burglary and theft, are the only persons of interest in the disappearance and apparent death of their baby.
“The biological parents Kristen Bury and Joseph Walsh remain in custody in South Carolina. I can assure this community there are no other persons of interest that we are looking for,” Knight said.
The parents are expected to be extradited to Sarasota County.