NEW BRAUNFELS — Search lines of New Braunfels community members combed the surrounding fields of Klein Road Elementary School Saturday morning and afternoon searching for 18-month-old Joshua Davis.
Joshua disappeared from the family home on the 2600 block of Savannah Hill Circle around 8:30 p.m. Friday, according to a news release by New Braunfels Police Department Lt. Michael Penshorn.
Penshorn said the family notified police about 15-20 minutes after noticing Joshua was missing.
“Officers and fire department personnel searched the residence multiple times and conducted a grid search of the entire neighborhood,” Penshorn said in the release.
The search grid is within a one-mile radius of the family residence.
Search began Friday evening
During a 2 p.m. Saturday news conference, Penshorn said volunteers began searching for the child Friday evening on foot, in vehicles with spotlights and by air with Department of Public Safety helicopters.
Police officers also contacted about 2,400 homeowners in the area. According to the release, calls to notify the public about the search were sent out to 2,414 residences using the Emergency Notification System.
“There were two messages on my voicemail last night about the missing child,” resident Marie Rierson said. “I received another call this morning from New Braunfels Police Department describing the child.”
NBPD, along with the Alamo Area Search and Rescue, Travis County Search and Rescue and a dog search and rescue out of College Station, began organizing a volunteer search command site at Klein Road Elementary School at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
“From what we understand, (Joshua) was last seen inside the residence,” Penshorn said during a Saturday news conference. “The parents had seen him, and in a matter of 10 to 20 minutes, he was not there.”
Penshorn said the residence’s front glass door does not latch properly; therefore, Joshua could have pushed the door open and exited easily.
“From what we understand, the child has been able to walk for approximately 10 months, and he is able to travel rather quickly,” Penshorn said.
Sex offenders live in neighborhood
Although police officials have questioned Joshua’s parents, Sabrina Benitez, 21, and Josh Davis, 23, other family members present at the time of Joshua’s disappearance and residents in the Savannah Hill Circle neighborhood, family friends are suspicious of a neighbor.The Texas Department of Public Safety’s sex offender registry lists five people who live within a one-mile radius of the house, including one man on Savannah Hill Circle.
“The sex offender has been interviewed, and we have also conducted searches on his residence and vehicle. As of right now, we have nothing to believe he’s involved in this case,” Penshorn said.
Family friend Lee Jackson said, “There was one of (Joshua’s) toy balls found at the end of the block. It was on top of some mailboxes. There’s no way he got it up there by himself.”
Parents, friends speak out
Joshua was last seen wearing a blue and red long sleeve shirt, a gray long sleeve T-shirt, a beige and white onesy, beige jeans and black and white socks. NBPD does not believe he was wearing shoes.
“Someone took him,” said Michelle Griffin, family friend. “He needs medical attention immediately. He has asthma and other medical conditions.”
Both of Joshua’s parents were present Saturday afternoon at the Klein Road Elementary search and rescue command site.
“I last saw my son around 8 last night,” said Josh Davis, Joshua’s father. “He was pulling on my beanie trying to take it off. He was behind my chair. When I told him to stop, he looked at me and smiled.
“That was the last time I saw him.”
Davis described Joshua as a cheerful, playful and loving boy.
“They have no leads,” said Sabrina Benitez, Joshua’s mother, through tears. “I last saw him around 7:40 p.m. in my room watching ‘Toy Story.’ When I realized he hadn’t come back to watch with me, I realized he was missing.”
Benitez is expecting her second child, a boy, next month.
NBPD officials do not suspect alcohol or drugs played a factor in the family’s awareness of Joshua’s disappearance.
Search continues tonight
The Klein Road Elementary School search and rescue command site stopped volunteer searches at 6 p.m. Saturday. Police and fire personnel will continue the search throughout the night.
“This is not in the middle of nowhere,” volunteer Mandy Lorance said. “There’s got to be somebody that knows something.”
The volunteer search and rescue will resume around 7:30 a.m. Sunday.
“Please bring my baby home,” Benitez said. “Please let him be OK.”
Anyone who finds Joshua or knows of his whereabouts is urged to call NBPD at (830) 221-4570.