JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the bulk of the investigation into the disappearance of 6-year-old Braxton Williams and his 5-year-old sister Bri’ya is centered inside the Paradise Village Mobile Home community, other children like Salina Hutchings and her sister Serenity Dennis who live in the community are seeing firsthand the seriousness of the search.
“They check the garbage cans for the bodies and it’s really scary because I have a little brother, and anything can happen and we’re living in the neighborhood where it’s happening at,” Dennis said.
“It scares me a lot because it could be my cousin, or someone related to me,” Hutchings said.
Around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Braxton and Bri’ya Williams were last seen playing in their front yard. Two hours later they were reported missing. By early evening an Amber Alert was issued.
As the search continues in wooded areas near the home, Ashley Palmer brought her 6-year-old daughter Alaya to the scene to teach her a valuable lesson.
“I brought her out here because I have tried to explain her numerous times that there are mean and evil people out here and they’re out here harming our little ones and for her to listen when I say ‘Don’t go anywhere. Don’t take off.’ She has a really bad tendency to want to take off,” said mother Ashley Palmer.
Alaya even spoke to officers who repeated what her mother was teaching.
For Palmer, the visual of the massive search effort is déjà vu. Although she doesn’t live in the community where Braxton and Bri’ya Williams were reported missing, she said she’s lived in other communities where there were high-profile searches for missing children.
“I went through this with Jennifer Medernach that happened in 2000. And I also went through this with Somer Thompson. So, it’s very sad. I don’t know what more we can do to protect our little ones,” Palmer said.
Salina Hutchings said she never met or knew her missing neighbors, but said news of what happened in her community was a topic of discussion in her 5th-grade class. She said her classmates were speculating on whether or not her neighbors were abducted.
“They were saying that’s wrong and how people should do that because they don’t know them or may have, but it’s still wrong to do that," she said.
One mile up the road inside the Walkers Hamlet subdivision, large groups of police went door-to-door handing out flyers with pictures of the missing children. Neighbors like Michelle Rodriguez said officers were also checking behind homes and even searching a retention pond.
“I’m devastated, scared, hoping they are found safe and come back home,” Rodriguez said. "I have kids of my own so I can just imagine what’s going through the family’s mind and how they are responding to this.”
Others in the area have taken matters into their own hands.
On Monday night, a group of about 10 people were walking around calling out for the missing siblings.
In the darkness, as a search drone flew overhead, they walked from the main entrance of the sprawling Paradise Village mobile home park, the property where the two children were last seen, from one home after another.
Everyone hopes these children will be found alive.
In a Monday afternoon press conference, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said searchers “have found nothing.”
As of Monday night, there were no new updates from law enforcement.