The search for a missing 4-year-old Jefferson City boy continued Friday, with investigators combing much of the same area they searched Thursday.
A caller reported to police shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday that Darnell S. Gray was missing from a residence in the 1100 block of Buena Vista Street.
"We have gotten numerous leads come in, but nothing that would change much of what we've been doing since the search began," Jefferson City Police Lt. Dave Williams said during a Friday morning news conference.
Darnell is described as a black male, 3-4 feet tall, weighing approximately 50 pounds. He has light-colored, shorter hair and was wearing a black and white sleeper, black coat, red Spider-Man Velcro shoes, Mickey Mouse hat and gloves, and a "Black Panther" backpack.
He was last seen between 11 p.m. Wednesday and midnight, when he went to sleep, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, which assisted in the search. Gray was discovered missing Thursday morning, along with his coat, hat, gloves, backpack, two juice boxes and some cookies from the residence.
"The caller reporting Darnell missing was the caregiver, not family," Williams said. "Family and friends have been working with us ever since."
Williams said more than 35 officers from various law enforcement agencies have been involved in searching an area including the entire Jefferson City Housing Authority complex on Buena Vista, Elizabeth Street, Woodclift Drive, Myrtle Avenue, through Washington Park and into Helias Catholic High School's Crusader Athletic Complex.
Members of the Missouri Highway Patrol's Water Division on Friday searched a retention pond on Linden Drive, which is in walking distance from where Darnell was last staying, but found nothing authorities felt could help with the search.
"We don't believe he could have gotten too far out of this area, so we are still primarily looking there," Williams said. "The FBI is also involved in the search now, so we are taking this very seriously and using as many resources as possible to find this boy."
Some citizens have taken it upon themselves to help in the search.
A group led by Marianne Asher-Chapman, executive director of Missouri Missing, met Friday morning at Washington Park to see if they could find anything that might help authorities.
Thursday marked the 15th anniversary of Asher-Chapman's daughter, Michelle Yarnell, being reported missing from Ivy Bend, Missouri. Although Yarnell's body never has been found, her husband confessed to killing her and served four years of a seven-year prison sentence.
Asher-Chapman said the news of Darnell's disappearance kept her busy and it did her heart good to see the people wanting to help.
"When we do these we usually go out and teams, usually of two," Asher-Chapman said. "You could get hurt out there yourself if you're not careful, so it's good to have someone with you."
Since Asher-Chapman founded Missouri Missing, she said, it's been amazing to see the increase in awareness about missing and exploited people.
"I just wanted to be out looking for that baby," Asher-Chapman said.
Jefferson City Police Lt. Pat McCutchen met with the group before they began searching. He asked that they be careful because much of the area is hilly and conditions caused by rainfall could make it easy to slip.
"We used our drone and the Missouri Highway Patrol helicopter to look at this area on Thursday but couldn't find anything," McCutchen said. "There's a lot of leaves still on the trees, so it's back to going out on foot to look through much of the area. We've had K-9 units out also helping in the search. It's always good to have another pair of eyes out there looking because we might have missed something."
McCutchen and Williams said police appreciated people's interest in helping but noted they are not actively seeking volunteers at this time.
They asked that those who would like to volunteer call the Jefferson City Police Department at 573-634-6400, where Sgt. Joe Mathern is coordinating a list of potential volunteers.
Williams also announced Jefferson City Area CrimeStoppers is offering a $500 reward for information regarding Darnell's location.
"We are still listing him as endangered because of the weather conditions," Williams said. "Due to what he was last reported wearing, it would not offer him much protection from the elements. Having the reward just gives us another tool that might help us in our investigation."
Anyone who might have relevant information should call police at 573-634-6400, call the CrimeStoppers hotline at 659-TIPS (659-8477), or go to jeffcitycrimestoppers.com.
This article was updated at noon Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, to add information from the Jefferson City Police Department's news conference.