June 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Police stalled in search for 2 missing Detroit kids, relatives continue looking

Detroit—The family of two missing children organized a search Tuesday morning of a west side park as the police investigation has stalled.

Several relatives of Kaylah Hunter, 6, and Kristian Justice, 8 months, met at Rouge Park to canvass the city’s largest recreation area and its surroundings from Joy Road to Plymouth.

“We’re not going to stop looking,” said Rachel Lockett, cousin of the two children. “If they were your family, would you? We’re not going to leave any rock unturned.”

Police say the children were last seen with their mother Alicia Fox on May 27 at their Ardmore home before she left the home with the kids. A text message from Fox’s cellphone was sent on June 3, which made her disappearance less alarming to police, authorities said.

Fox’s relatives found her body in the basement of a vacant house on Penrod on June 9 after receiving a tip about suspicious activity involving a U-Haul outside the dwelling. Police soon launched a search for the children.

Last week, Fox’s husband, Erin Justice, 28, was charged with first-degree murder, possession of a firearm and felony firearm charges. He is being held in Atlanta where he had an extradition hearing. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has up to 30 days to file a governor’s warrant to have him extradited to Detroit.

Police Chief James Craig said authorities “haven’t had a lot of success, but we still are actively searching,” Tuesday afternoon. Craig said law enforcement has reached a stalemate with Justice, who is believed to have information on the children’s whereabouts, but has been less cooperative after he “lawyer’d up.”

“I instinctively know the father has information. ... He may have been one of the last persons to see the children,” Craig said.

A Detroit police special operations officer stopped by to chat with the family, but landlord Thomas Sullivan said police have already been searching themselves.

“I deal with 50 some houses in this district, and I’ve gotten several calls saying ‘Police have been down to the houses looking for the kids,’ ” Sullivan said.

Craig confirmed they have already searched the area based on information they received.

Timothy Jones, 27, of Detroit, who is accused of helping Justice, was arraigned last week and charged as an accessory after the fact to a felony in connection with the shooting death of Fox.

Fox’s family on Tuesday weren’t alone in their search efforts as they were joined by nearly three dozen volunteers, including Kaylah’s elementary school teacher, who passed out fliers, and Community Emergency Response Team volunteer Robert Kempert, who brought his German shepherd Damon to assist the group.

Kempert, who is trained in search and rescue, said the groups were looking for clothing, loose dirt and other clues.

Lockett said they would keep an eye out for discarded furniture and neighbors who’ve seen dumping involving a U-Haul truck. Fox’s neighbors said they saw Justice loading up a U-Haul truck with another man more than two weeks ago. A woman who lived near the Penrod address called the family to report suspicious activity involving a U-Haul truck outside the vacant home where Fox’s body was later found.

Volunteers such as Detroiter Candy Allen were touched by the family’s story and wanted to lend them a hand despite her own disability.

“I was turning the news on every day to see if they found the kids,” said Allen as she clutched her cane. “So this morning I was laying in the bed and something just told me to get up and get out there and help.”

After several hours of going over wooded areas and passing out missing flyers, Tuesday’s search didn’t yield any new information, according to relatives. However, they expect to coordinate more searches in the near future.

“We’ll search from Penrod to Harper if we have to,” Lockett said.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the children should call Detroit Police at (313) 596-1240

(313) 222-2541

Volunteers before they start their search on Tuesday for missing siblings Kaylah Hunter, 6, and her brother Kristian Justice, 8 months at Rouge Park in Detroit. / David Coates / The Detroit News
Kim Sionkowski, Kaylah's teacher at Bradford Academy, looks at Crime ... (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Rob Kempert and his dog Damon look for missing siblings Kaylah Hunter, 6, ... (David Coates / The Detroit News)