Taylor's case rekindles haunting memories for officer who found Lonzie, Cherish

Retired officer Charlie Wilkie says discoveries still haunt him

VIDEO: For many, the disappearance of 5-year-old Taylor Williams is a reminder of other Amber Alerts in the Northeast Florida area.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For many, the disappearance of 5-year-old Taylor Williams is a reminder of other Amber Alerts in the Northeast Florida area. Some are drawing similarities to the disappearance and death of 2-year-old Lonzie Barton in 2015.

On Tuesday, human remains were found in Alabama during the search for Taylor. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is awaiting a positive identity on the remains, but Sheriff Mike Williams said they may be of the missing girl.

On the same day, sources confirmed Brianna Williams, Taylor's mother, who Sheriff Williams named a person of interest in the child's disappearance, was flown to a Jacksonville hospital due to a medical emergency. Tuesday evening, Sheriff Williams announced Brianna Williams was arrested on charges of child neglect and giving false information to investigators in the search for her daughter.

The circumstances of Taylor's disappearance hit close to home for Charlie Wilkie, a retired officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, who discovered Lonzie's remains and the body of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle.

“It brings back the memories,” Wilkie said. “It brings back knowing what someone else is fixing to experience.”

Wilkie spent much of his career in the K-9 unit. He and his dog, Gator, found Cherish's body in a marsh behind a Northside Jacksonville church in 2013, hours after her kidnapping and murder.

Two years later, Wilkie was with a search team when he discovered Lonzie's remains approximately six months after the boy was reported missing.

Both cases still haunt him.

“Just that moment of realization that it’s someone’s child,” Wilkie said.

Now working for another agency, he's watched the investigation into Taylor's disappearance closely, telling News4Jax it’s similar to Lonzie's case.

“You back away and you let them photograph and film and start processing the scene,” he said. “You try to quietly back out the way that you came in to, try not to disturb anything. Now you’re at a point where you have to substantiate who was there, maybe by phone pings, or maybe they used their ATM cards to buy gas."

Wilkie said a forensics team will try to use dental or medical records to make a positive ID on the body found in Alabama during the search for Taylor. Meanwhile, he's thinking of the first responders who made the discovery.

"You’re doing your part, and you’re helping build the case. That’s what your job is to do, to collect evidence," he said. "At the same time, it affects you, just as a human being.”

Wilkie said a positive identification of the body should come relatively soon, possibly in the next few days.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.