WHITE CLOUD, Mich. (WOOD) — The body of a 4-month-old girl who police had been searching for was found in the basement of her family’s White Cloud home.
Natallya Rich’s body was discovered late Tuesday night at the home.
Heidi Thill, her maternal grandmother, said police told her that Natallya’s father, Matthew Bradley, told them precisely where to look for the baby, who had been missing since Saturday.
She thinks Natallya’s body must have been in the basement — perhaps in a crawl space — since then without any of the family members knowing. She said she and her husband were in the basement Monday and didn’t notice or smell anything unusual.
Late Tuesday night, officers from the White Cloud and Hesperia police departments, Michigan State Police and the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the home where Natallya lived. They asked the family gathered there to vacate the house. Thill told 24 Hour News 8 that police said they needed to search the home because Bradley had “left something behind” — she thought it must have been drugs.
After a brief search, officers came out of the house and addressed family members. Thill could be heard shouting, “No, oh my God, she’s not!” An officer hugged her as she sobbed uncontrollably.
Officers started putting up crime scene tape around the home just before midnight.
Bradley and Natallya’s mother, Brittany Rich, ran off Tuesday afternoon in Rich’s car. Police said both are involved with drug use — methamphetamine, Rich’s family specified.
Bradley and Rich were found in Big Rapids around 10 p.m. Family members said White Cloud police officers went there to pick the pair up for questioning.
The Newaygo County prosecutor said it’s too early to call Natallya’s death a case of foul play. An autopsy will be performed Wednesday to determine how she died.
Bradley is being held on an unrelated charge. He was already wanted since missing a court hearing last month regarding a weapons charge. He will be arraigned on those charges at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Newaygo County Courthouse.
Michigan State Police executed a search warrant inside the White Cloud home where baby Natallya was found early Wednesday morning.
What happened to Natallya had been a mystery since Bradley said he took her to a babysitter on Saturday but wouldn’t say where, family said. Thill said she woke up early Tuesday, concerned about the baby. It was after that the search started in earnest.
Tuesday evening, there was talk that the baby may be with a woman known only as “Nicole.” Family members even said they had heard from the so-called Nicole Tuesday night, saying that she was worried she would be in trouble if she brought Natallya home.
Earlier Tuesday, the White Cloud police chief said he didn’t push for an Amber Alert because he didn’t believe Natallya was in danger, nor did he believe a crime had been committed, which is a requirement for an Amber Alert. He said people close to Bradley said he wouldn’t hurt his daughter. Still, the chief said it “breaks his heart” that Natallya’s case didn’t meet Amber Alert criteria and that he wished something more could be done.
“The criteria is very stringent for an Amber Alert so the police chief did not feel that met the criteria so he utilized other resources that were at his disposal,” said Abby Watkins, director of Newaygo County Emergency Services. “At this point in time, an Amber Alert would not have made a difference in the outcome.”
Natallya’s grandmother told 24 Hour News 8 she believes it was already too late by the time they became suspicious of Natallya’s disappearance and an Amber Alert would not have made a difference.
24 Hour News 8’s Ken Kolker contributed to this report.