In a case all too reminiscent of that of missing Florida toddler Caylee Anthony, police in Florida have been searching for a child last seen at age 5 months in July 2011, who was never reported missing.
Dontrell Melvin, who would now be about 2, disappeared when he was in the custody of his father Calvin Melvin, 27, of Hallandale Beach. Melvin received a visit from a Department of Children & Families worker on an unrelated matter on January 9, 2013. Luckily, that person noticed that Dontrell was missing. Melvin reportedly said that he had left Dontrell with his parents, but the child’s grandparents told the caseworker they hadn’t seen him for over a year. On January 11, 2013, police searched the home where the family lived when Dontrell vanished and found his remains in the back yard. “This is no longer a missing person case,” said Police Chief Dwayne Flourney. “It is now a homicide investigation.”
Disturbingly, when Melvin was initially questioned by police, he seems to have changed his story, in a suspicious way. Melvin is reported as saying that, taking advantage of the safe harbor statute, he had abandoned the child in his stroller at a fire station. Police checked and there is no record of that ever happening. Maybe Melvin was remembering a loophole in the Nebraska Safe Harbor Act that decriminalized child abandonment for a few months in 2008. Until the Nebraska legislature closed the loophole, people from all over the country were rushing to Nebraska to abandon their kids of all ages. Florida’s Safe Harbor Act, however, specifies that only children up to a week old can be given up without repercussions. At the time Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy told reporters, “(I) don’t know what happened to this child. But the story that the child was left at a fire station, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it at all.”
Dontrell’s mother, Brittney Sierra, 21, apparently did buy the story, believing that her child was with his grandparents living a better life than she could offer. Her reports of “custody issues” with Melvin in October 2012, when Melvin would not tell her where Dontrell was, would seem to confirm Sierra’s side of the story. Sadly the matter was passed from police to the DCF, who determined that further investigation was not warranted.
Two other children have been removed from the home. Melvin and Sierra are currently in custody in Broward County on charges of child neglect. Their families are cooperating, so it is unlikely that anyone else will be charged, though police may yet add more charges against Sierra and Melvin as the case develops.