JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On the second day of the search for a missing 5-year-old girl, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams announced that Taylor Rose Williams' mother has stopped cooperating with investigators. He said that Brianna Williams is not under arrest or even considered as suspect, but when detectives pointed out inconsistencies with her story, she stopped answering questions.
"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," he said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.
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.
Sheriff Williams was asked at the news conference whether he could confirm the last time anyone other than Taylor's mother saw the girl alive.
"We don't know," the sheriff said. "That's part of what we are obviously digging into and trying to get some corroborating evidence on that."
Sheriff Williams said that even though the visible command centers were taken down Thursday, the massive search for Taylor will continue and the Amber Alert remains in effect. He said hundreds of tips have come in, and he asked anyone who saw Brianna Williams and her daughter together in the last six months to call 904-630-0500.
"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.
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.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office appears to be leveraging its public plea for help against the mother who no longer is cooperating.
"JSO will be putting pressure on that mother because the answers. If you stop cooperating when you have a 5-year-old that could be in danger," he said.
Jefferson said JSO does run into a figurative wall when the mother stops answering questions.
"If she invokes her rights and asks for a lawyer, and they have no probable cause to arrest her, then they can’t force her to talk," he said. "She has her right to remain silent."
The home where the 5-year-old Jacksonville girl was reportedly last seen around midnight Tuesday remained taped off Thursday. Police said Brianna Williams, who is a Navy petty officer first class at the Tactical Operations Center at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, told them she saw her daughter in bed around midnight Wednesday in their home on Ivy Street, but when she woke the next morning, Taylor was gone and the back door of the home was open.
Since police got the call that Taylor was missing at 7:22 a.m. Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office said more than 300 officers have been involved in the search, along with K-9 teams, officers on horseback, the dive team and other assets. They have knocked on 600 doors and checked out numerous leads.
Officers continue to remove evidence bags Thursday from the home on Ivy Street where Taylor reportedly disappeared. Authorities previously said there was no sign of foul play in the house, and everything inside looked normal.
Sheriff Williams would not say if the Florida Department of Children and Families is also investigating.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a missing child alert at 9:21 a.m. Wednesday and an Amber Alert for Taylor went out about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on cellphones, billboards, Florida Department of Transportation message boards and to all law enforcement officers across the state.
Taylor is described as 3 feet tall, weighing 50 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. The mother told police she was last seen wearing a purple shirt and pink pajama pants when she went to bed.
Police said Brianna Williams was initially concerned and helpful with investigators.
Taylor's biological father, Maurice Tate, lives in Alabama and told News4Jax late Thursday that a JSO detective was driving there to question him. He said "it's been a while" since he saw Taylor, but wouldn't be more specific about a time frame.
Sheriff Williams said Thursday that while Brianna Williams has not been cooperating, other family members have been.
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.
Police asked for the community’s help to find Taylor and said hundreds of community members were searching and helping pass out flyers. Sky4 aerials also showed officers checking vacant homes in the area. Police checked with registered sex offenders in the area, which is standard operating procedure in missing child situations.
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Police, as well as neighbors, searched into the night Wednesday. One community member, Kevin Weston, who showed up to help in the search, said the lack of progress has been frustrating.
"None of the stories are adding up," Weston said. "It's just really not making sense, and it's kind of bothering us."
A Brentwood neighbor told News4Jax that she saw children's toys but never saw a child at the home where police said the girl was reported missing.
"I haven’t seen her the whole time," neighbor Brianna Curtis said. "I knew they moved in and I saw the kids’ stuff, but I never actually seen the kids. ... I saw the kids' stuff but not her."
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