JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents of the Paradise Village Mobile Home Park joined the search for a young boy and girl who disappeared from their family’s home late Sunday morning. So did people from across Jacksonville who had no connection to Braxton Williams, 6, and his sister, 5-year-old Bri’ya Williams, but who showed up to help.
The brother and sister were reported missing about 1:30 p.m. Sunday after the family had search for them for two hours, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued the Amber Alert about 5:15 p.m.
Relatives told News4Jax that the children were playing in the front yard of their mobile home in the community off West Beaver Street in the Whitehouse area. Roxanne Lloyd, the children’s paternal grandmother, told News4Jax that the family has been in the home for about two or three years and was preparing for a barbecue when the kids disappeared when their dad went inside to get meat for the grill. Lloyd said her two grandchildren had never wandered away before.
“We’re asking for all prayers," Lloyd said.
People were doing more than praying. Some showed up to join the search, including Jacob Vellecca and his two stepchildren, ages 6 and 12.
“It’s scary because they don’t know. They don’t understand the dangers and we try to tell them, but they still don’t fully understand. But, hopefully, tonight, I’m letting them see it’s serious,” Velleca said Sunday evening. “You’ve got to stay close to home. You can’t get out of eyesight.”
Other people who had no connection to the family also joined the search. Northside resident Sandra Litchfield-Bryan got a flashlight from her husband and headed out.
“They’re babies. I have a 7-year-old, a 6-year-old sister, countless nieces and nephews," Litchfield-Bryan said before dawn Monday. "It’s a cold night. It’s dark. It was a lot warmer when they were playing outside, that type of that weather they were perfectly dressed; but for this weather they are underdressed.
Residents mingled with strangers searching the 400-unit mobile home park.
“Paradise Village can be a lot of things, but I’ve seen a lot of things, but I never seen kids go missing. This is a first,” one neighbor told News4Jax. “I don’t let my kids out of my sight.”
Neighbor John Rosier said he sees the children outside the house all the time and spoke to their father Sunday night.
“I talked to the dad a little and he’s really torn up," Rosier said. “Even though they’re not my kids, I still feel like they’re my kids because I see them playing over there all the time. We’re just looking through the woods to see if we can see anything. Looking through sheds, dumpsters, whatever.”
AMBER Alert Update— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) December 16, 2019
Sheriff Williams speaks regarding missing children Braxton and Bri’ya Williams who were last seen yesterday in the area of 10200 West Beaver Street.
Watch here: https://t.co/1ZH7BIsAOU
This updated photo of Bri’ya depicts her current hair style. pic.twitter.com/f2IQgYD4BL
Sheriff Mike Williams said Monday afternoon that there were more than 100 officers and 150 investigators looking for Braxton and Bri’ya. Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Search and Rescue personnel, dive teams, K-9 units, JSO cadets and drones were all being used. The search includes a densely-wooded area, abandoned mobile homes and retention ponds.
There was also a large police presence Monday at Whitehouse Baptist Church, which is about a mile down the road from the mobile home park where Braxton and Bri’ya were reportedly last seen playing outside their home. Police cars lined the roadway and packed the parking lot. Throughout the day, buses could be seen coming and going, shuttling search crews to and from the site. One Whitehouse resident was using another mode of transportation to help search.
“We took our golf cart out and rode around the property just all afternoon, just looking to see if we saw anything, heard anything,” said Aimee Peacock, who lives in Whitehouse.
Neighbors grew more and more worried as each hour went by.
“They could be on I-10. They can be in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia. We don’t know,” said Debbie Doran, who lives near the church in Whitehouse. “I’m extremely frustrated. I am hurt. It breaks my heart. What do you do today? What do you do?”
She hopes there is a break in the case sooner than later.
“There has got to be something, something. There is something missing. There is a link missing here,” Doran said. “I’m concerned.”
Police said Braxton was last seen wearing blue jeans and an unknown top. He was described as being 3 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 40 pounds and having black hair and brown eyes. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the boy is said to be on the autism spectrum but will communicate with others. Lloyd said Braxton is a quiet little boy, while Bri’ya is more active and outgoing than her brother. Bri’ya was wearing a gray sweater with multicolored writing on the front and black leggings when she was last seen, authorities said. The girl was described as being 3 feet tall, weighing 30 pounds and having black hair and brown eyes.
Police asked people to keep their eyes open. People living near West Beaver Street at Port-Au-Prince Drive were also asked to check around their properties, including exterior structures and under mobile homes.
“We’re asking for everybody’s assistance in looking,” JSO Public Information Officer Christian Hancock. “We want them to pay attention, look at these children, look at their faces in the pictures, and if you see something, please call us and say something.”
According to the sheriff, the family has been cooperative in every way, and “there’s no sign of foul play in the mobile home.” But Williams also said, "We’re working several angles,” and foul play is a possible scenario.
Anyone who has seen the children or who has information about their whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500.