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Scaled-down search continues for Taylor Rose Williams

Jacksonville sheriff says 5-year-old's mother no longer cooperating

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The search for a missing 5-year-old Jacksonville girl entered its third day Friday, the day after Sheriff Mike Williams announced Thursday that Taylor Rose Williams' mother had stopped cooperating with investigators.

Mike Williams said that even though the command centers were taken down Thursday and a lone police car was parked in front of the family home in Brentwood on Friday and another one at an apartment complex on Southside Boulevard where the family used to live, the search for Taylor is continuing and the Amber Alert remains in effect.

The sheriff said hundreds of tips have come in, and he asked anyone who saw Taylor and her mother, Brianna Williams, together in the last six months to call 904-630-0500.

News4Jax has learned from two sources that a cadaver dog alerted on the trunk of the mother's car, which was towed from her Brentwood home on Wednesday afternoon.

The sheriff pointed out that Brianna Williams, who is a Navy petty officer, is not under arrest or even considered a suspect, but he said that when detectives pointed out inconsistencies with her story, she stopped answering questions.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Friday he was angry about Taylor's disappearance, but praying.

"You've got to remain hopeful," Curry said.

People who live in the area are also trying to stay positive.

"We want to know where is the baby?" Mary Richardson said. "Is she OK? I don’t know."

The woman who lives next to the house where Brianna Williams moved last week said they never saw Taylor. 

"My kids play out here often and they didn’t see any child," Jenae Singleton said.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said time is not on the side of investigators.

"If you can imagine, JSO has a daunting task in front of them," Jefferson said.

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Background

Brianna Williams called police at 7:22 a.m. Wednesday to report her daughter missing from their home in Brentwood. She said she saw the child in her bed at midnight, but when she woke around 7 a.m., Taylor was gone and the back door was open.

"Here's what we know: We know that Brianna Williams was the last person to see Taylor, and we need for her to cooperate with us in this investigation," Sheriff Williams said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Investigators have found no sign of the child, and the sheriff said they do not believe she just walked away from the home.

As the sun rose Friday morning and the search extended beyond the typically crucial first 48 hours, police and volunteers continued their efforts to find Taylor.

As of Thursday night, a Jacksonville detective was headed to speak with Taylor's biological father, Maurice Tate, who lives in Alabama. Family members said he hasn't seen his daughter in roughly two years.

Sheriff Williams said part of the investigation is trying to find out when the last person -- besides Brianna Williams -- saw Taylor alive.

"Really, no matter how insignificant they think that interaction may have been, no matter where it was, we encourage them to reach out and give us that last, you know, that may be the last little piece of information we need," he said.

JSO said Taylor was enrolled in a day care on base at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, where her mother serves in the Navy, but they do not know when she was last there.  

A spokesperson for the base said Friday morning that officials can't comment because it's an ongoing investigation.

Even though there's not yet evidence of a crime, Crime Stoppers is offering a reward, which was increased Thursday evening to $4,000, for information about Taylor's whereabouts. Callers to 866-845-TIPS can remain anonymous and be eligible for the reward.

"We remain hopeful that we'll find Taylor. We're not going to stop in our efforts to locate her and there's not one scenario or theory that we're not exploring, and every possibility is being looked at," Sheriff Williams said.

Taylor is described as 3 feet tall, weighing 50 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. 

In the first two days of the search, more than 300 officers knocked on more than 600 doors and checked out numerous leads, using K-9 teams, officers on horseback, the dive team and other assets, since Taylor was reported missing.

Police also confirmed they were also searching the Southside Villas apartment complex on Southside Boulevard where the family of Taylor lived before moving to Ivy Street. Dozens of officers were seen searching, and the JSO dive team arrived at the complex Wednesday afternoon. Soon after, officers could be seen searching garbage that had been removed from the complex.


About the Authors:

Kelly Wiley

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.

Jennifer Ready

Reports weekdays on The Morning Show