Authorities find missing Spring Lake girl
Posted November 1, 2017 11:11 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:06 p.m. EDT
Spring Lake, N.C. — Almost 36 hours after she disappeared, a 3-year-old Spring Lake girl was found safe Wednesday evening, authorities said.
Zy'Rah Nicole Holliday was found at a home in the same neighborhood where her 11-month-old half-brother, Keyon Thomas, was found Tuesday morning.
Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats said the girl was found in an abandoned mobile home on Crest Circle. An anonymous tip led authorities to the area, and they searched each mobile home in the park, he said.
Zy'Rah was a bit dehydrated but was otherwise fine, Coats said. There was no food or water inside the mobile home, he said.
The girl smiled as her mother, Shaquilla Murchison, and father, Jamal Holliday, carried her out of the neighborhood amid a crush of television cameras.
"I just want to thank everybody for helping me find my baby," Murchison said. "I'm just glad that's she's back. That's all I can say."
The family was headed to McDonald's to get something to eat, Muchison said, noting that Zy'Rah was hungry and that she herself hadn't eaten in two days because she was so worried about her daughter.
"That tore a piece of my heart out," she said, "knowing that my daughter was out here, and I didn't know where she was at."
Holliday thanked authorities for their relentless searching and the public for their prayers for Zy'Rah's safe return.
"This is what we all worked for – to get her home safe," Coats said, adding it's unclear if the girl was inside the mobile home by herself since Tuesday morning.
Authorities say Murchison's boyfriend, Daquan Seandre Thomas, took Zy'Rah and Keyon from the Sweet Lane apartment they share during a domestic dispute at about 6:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Keyon, who is Thomas' biological son, was found about four hours later at a relative's home in Spring Lake. The boy had scratches on his face, which authorities believe came when he was taken through a wooded area.
Thomas, 20, was apprehended Tuesday afternoon near the relative's home and was charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse and one count of felony child abduction.
He appeared in court Wednesday morning but said little. A judge ordered him held under a $200,000 bond and set a probable cause hearing for Nov. 14.
Coats said Thomas didn't cooperate with investigators, insisting that he took his son from the apartment but left Zy'Rah behind.
"Nothing he has said so far has been truthful," Coats said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
Witnesses told investigators they saw both children with Thomas, and security video from the area also showed Thomas carrying Keyon in a harness against his chest while Zy'Rah walked alongside, sometimes holding Thomas' hand, the sheriff said.
But the residents of the home where Keyon was left told authorities that they didn't see Zy'Rah with Thomas when he dropped the boy off, Coats said.
"Why is he not saying anything if she's OK? He's hiding something," said Zy'Rah's grandfather, Terry McNeill.
"Friends and family, everybody, there were praying with us, like I was telling them on the way here," McNeill said. "Those thousands and thousands of prayers brought her home. We're just excited. We thank you."
The Harnett County Sheriff's Office said the tip that led to Zy'Rah's rescue came from a friend of Thomas, and more charges are expected in the case.
Murchison took out a domestic violence protection order against Thomas on Monday, but Coats said deputies weren't able to serve it on him until he was arrested Tuesday afternoon.
Murchison wrote in her application for the order that Thomas had threatened to hurt her and their son if she broke up with him.
"I don't want him to hurt my son. He keeps saying he will hurt my son," she wrote.
Holliday described Thomas' and Murchison's relationship as abusive and was upset that his daughter had been caught in the middle of it.
The search was extensive, involving a State Highway Patrol helicopter and a State Bureau of Investigation plane, tracking dogs and dive teams searching ponds in the area. Checkpoints were set up along Ray Road and N.C. Highway 210 to gather any possible tips.
"We're just trying to cover everything, any possible avenues," Coats said Wednesday morning. "We're not going to leave anything uncovered, so we're searching everywhere."
A statewide Amber Alert was issued Tuesday afternoon for Zy'Rah, but authorities canceled it Wednesday evening.