Body believed to be 3-year-old boy found in water tank

Amari Harley disappeared from event at Bruce Park

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A body believed to be a missing 3-year-old boy was discovered in a underground water tank at an Arlington park Sunday evening, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Amari Harley was last seen at a charity event at Bruce Park around 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

JSO was contacted at 4:43 p.m. and was told at that time he had been missing for one hour.

A Florida Missing Child Alert was issued at 7:15 p.m.

JSO Assistant Chief Scott Dingee said they called Public Works about opening a water tank at the park and confirmed it was large enough for Amari to get in. 

Public Works drained the tank and a body matching Amari's description was found at 7:50 p.m.

They don't know how Amari got inside the tank and "all options are on the table." 

Dingee said there is a cover for the tank but he "wasn't sure of the status of it."

News4Jax spoke with Amari's father before the body was found.

"I love my son to death. He's so innocent and sweet. My baby boy," said Willie Harley.

He said when he arrived to the park, he saw helicopters and more than 20 police officers. Harley said Amari's mother took him to a kickball game and there were a bunch of children playing.

Amari's aunt also spoke to News4Jax, saying she used to babysit him.

"We just want Mari back," said Janice Douglas.

Bruce Park is a city park at the corner of Arlington and Rogero roads.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said police will be looking at the water tank to determine if it had a cover, if it should have been locked and how Amari was able to get inside.

He also said they need to determine if the child's death is suspicious.

"It depends on if there is trauma to the body," Smith said. "Once they do an autopsy, they will see if there was any kind of struggle or fight. It may be a little more difficult because you might not have the child fighting back, who's 3-years-old. So you may not have that if there was foul play."

Dingee said they don't want to miss potential evidence.

"We are going to work it to the fullest degree that we can and we will see where the evidence takes us," said Dingee.

Smith said this kind of situation can happen to the best of parents.

"A child can just drift away just for a few seconds without people noticing, especially if you're at a large gathering where you have so many other kids that people are watching and so many other relatives that are there," Smith said. "It's easy sometimes to be sidetracked and just lose custody of someone."

Smith said when something like this happens, the State Attorney's Office and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office get together and come to the area as quickly as possible.

"They'll talk to everyone here. They'll talk to neighbors. They'll go down all the streets to see if they may have seen anything suspicious or seen someone with a child," said Smith.

An autopsy on the child's body will be conducted Monday.

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