5-year-old's disappearance a chilling reminder of past cases

Human remains found during search of woods in Alabama

Over the past two decades, we've had a number of missing child cases that gained national attention because of the tragic circumstances. Anchor Tarik Minor joins us now with some of those cases.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Almost a week after a 5-year-old Jacksonville girl was reported missing, human remains were found during a multi-state search that led investigators to Alabama.

The remains were found Tuesday in a wooded area near the rural Alabama community of Demopolis, according to the Demopolis Police Department. They have not yet been identified, but police believe they belong to Taylor Rose Williams.

Williams was reported missing Nov. 6 from her Jacksonville home. At first, her mother told police she woke up to find the back door open and her daughter gone.

Williams' mother, Brianna, was at first cooperating with the investigation, but is now considered a person of interest in her daughter's disappearance, police said. She was absentee booked Tuesday on suspicion of child neglect and giving false information to law enforcement.

Multiple sources have told News4Jax that a cadaver dog, which is trained to detect human decay, alerted on the trunk of Brianna Williams' vehicle, a black 2017 Honda Accord.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office believes Brianna Williams traveled to Alabama sometime over the last two weeks. They're asking anyone who saw her and her daughter to come forward.

If the remains are positively identified as those of the 5-year-old girl, it would be the latest in a string of missing children cases across North Florida and South Georgia to end in tragedy.

Perhaps the most well-known case is that of Maddie Clifton, an 8-year-old girl reported missing from the Southside neighborhood in 1998. Her body was found underneath the water bed of Josh Phillips, her 14-year-old neighbor, days later. Phillips was later convicted in Clifton's murder.

In 2004, 10-month-old Jay-Quan Mosley and his mother, Lynda Wilkes, were reported missing. Wilkes' body was found burned a week later, but the baby's remains were never found. The boy's father, John Mosley, was convicted of both murders in 2005.

Then in 2007, 6-year-old Christopher Barrios was abducted from his grandmother's home. His body was found seven days later. His rape and murder led to the arrests of David and Peggy Edenfield and their son, George. David Edenfield received the death sentence and his wife got 60 years in prison.

Another high-profile case unfolded just two years later in 2009 when 5-year-old HaLeigh Cummings was reported missing from her Putnam County home. To this day, no one knows exactly what happened to the girl, despite competing theories about who is responsible for her disappearance.

Also in 2009, 7-year-old Somer Thompson was kidnapped while walking home from school in Orange Park. The girl's body was found two days later in a Georgia landfill some 50 miles away. Police zeroed in on Jarred Harrell. Harrell ultimately pleaded guilty and received six life sentences in the case.

Five years later, 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle was abducted while shopping with her mother at a retail store on Jacksonville's Northside. Her abductor befriended her mom and led the girl out of the store. Her body was found the next day. Smith was sentenced to death in the girl's rape and murder.

In 2015, it seemed like the whole city fanned out in search of 21-month-old Lonzie Barton after his mother's boyfriend reported the child missing. The boyfriend, Ruben Ebron, would later lead police to a wooded area in the Bayard neighborhood where the boy's body had been all along.

Of those eight cases, two of the children's bodies were never found. And in one case, that of HaLeigh Cummings, no one was ever held criminally responsible for her disappearance and presumed death.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.