HART, Mich. (WOOD) — Two missing little girls were found safe Monday afternoon after they disappeared from their Hart home sometime the night before.
The search for 9- and 10-year-old Clarissa and Charlotte Thomas began around 8 a.m. when the girls’ mother discovered they were not in their home on North 72nd Avenue near Polk Street. Officers from multiple agencies assisted in the search, focusing on the wooded area across the street.
Shortly before noon, searchers found Clarissa. But the girls’ mother was still worried as her older daughter remained out there somewhere alone.
“When I found out that they were both gone this morning I panicked,” Santana Thomas, the children’s mother, said. “I got even more disconcerted when only one showed up and not the other one.”
About two hours later, the ultimate relief: A Michigan State Police trooper emerged from the edge of the woods carrying Charlotte in his arms. Moments later, Charlotte’s mother rushed to the area and tearfully embraced her daughter.
“Thank you to everybody that took time out of their day to look for these girls to get them home safely where they belong,” Thomas told reporters after her daughter was found.
Trooper Chris Carns was all smiles as he talked about finding the little girl with the help of his 3-year-old K-9 partner Bo.
“The dog showed interest and showed odor that he was tracking her,” Carns explained to 24 Hour News 8. “As we came down and worked down the wood line … I see these cute little eyes looking out of the ditch.”
Charlotte knew why the trooper was there.
“She said, ‘I think you’re looking for me,'” Carns said. “I asked her if she would like me to carry her out and she took me up on that.”
“It’s a great feeling,” he continued.
Carns said it was a welcome relief to see the training he has done with Bo pay off. The trooper, who has been with MSP for two and a half years, said it was the first time he and Bo found a child.
It wasn’t clear why the girls ventured off. Authorities say family members said they had wandered away before, but it was never so serious that police were involved. The children’s mother said she suspected the girls may have been trying to find their father. He is in the military and recently left home to begin a tour of duty.
Charlotte seemed fine as she embraced her mother and spoke about what happened.
“I was down in there in that green thicket. It had lots of thorns in it,” she said.
The little girl said she fell asleep in the woods and was afraid.
“I started crying,” Charlotte said.
Oceana County sheriff’s officials say they will report the case to Children’s Protective Services for review. At this point, Sheriff Craig Mast said the matter does not appear to be criminal.
K-9 Bo asked for nothing special for his work Monday.
“We go to work to get money, to get paid, and he goes to work to get his ball,” Carns said as Bo played with his ball nearby. “That’s all he wants.”
It’s a happy ending to a situation that officers know could have ended in tragedy.
“That’s why we come running when they call. We want to find them before that happens.” Carns said. “This is better than catching any bad guy.”