DETROIT (AP) — Stepping gingerly among mounds of discarded tires, piles of soggy clothing and nail-pierced wood boards, Makibla Gideon’s head swept from side to side in search of a purple toddler’s jacket or pink shirt – any remnant that could have been worn by a 2-year-old Detroit girl whose father claims was taken during carjacking.
“You have to put all that aside when it comes to a precious little girl,” said the 39-year-old Gideon, barely avoiding oily pools of filthy rain water in one of dozens of alleys not far from where Bianca Jones is reported to have last been seen.
More than three dozen volunteers searching for Bianca fanned out in small groups of five to 10 Monday morning through the North End neighborhood, while police continued to pore over D’Andre Lane’s version of how his car was taken during a robbery Friday morning with his daughter in the rear seat.
“If it was my son or me missing I would want somebody looking for me,” said Gideon, moments before peering inside a trash-filled and nearly collapsed garage only blocks from where police found Lane’s car.
She and others who canvassed the area amid 30-degree temperatures that eventually gave way to snow returned a couple hours later to Metropolitan United Methodist Church, many tired but vowing to try again Tuesday if necessary.
Lane, 32, was being held in nearby Oakland County on an outstanding warrant from an unrelated case. But Undersheriff Mike McCabe said Monday afternoon that Lane had been released.
Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee said Sunday investigators were questioning the truthfulness of Lane’s story. Police also searched his home Monday morning, but declined to provide details.
No suspects have been identified related to the alleged carjacking.
“The search for Bianca Jones is ongoing and continues to be of the highest priority relative to our commitment of dedicated resources to this case,” Godbee said in a statement. “The Detroit Police Department will not comment on the quantity nor the quality of any evidence or information we have gathered to date. However, in the interest of allaying some of the fears of the public regarding the apparent randomness of Bianca’s disappearance, the authenticity and credibility of the original version of events is under intense scrutiny by our investigative team.”
Lane’s lawyer said his client has been straightforward with police and will be so in the future.
“He is a loving father,” Terry L. Johnson said Monday night.
“Contrary to media reports, Mr. Lane has fully cooperated and will continue to cooperate with police agencies to assure the safe return of his daughter, Bianca Jones,” Johnson said.
Banika Jones, the girl’s mother, said before the search began that she last saw her daughter Nov. 26, when family and friends celebrated her birthday. Jones said Lane had taken Bianca to see a movie, brought her back to her mother’s house for the party and then the girl left with her father.
“Please continue to keep searching for Bianca,” Banika Jones said. “We love her and we want her home. Bianca, Mommy has lots and lots of gingerbread men for you when you get home.”
According to Michigan prison records, Lane was jailed for more than three years on drug and firearm possession charges stemming from a 2003 arrest and was paroled in 2007. He also served a more than four-year probation starting in 1996 after being convicted of assault with intent to commit armed robbery and a conspiracy charge.
A pre-sentencing investigation report from 2007 shows that Lane, a father of three other children from three previous relationships, sought to shield his incarceration from his children. A probation officer wrote that Lane did not want his children to come to see him in prison because it was not a place for them to visit.
Banika Jones said Lane has a good relationship with Bianca, who is described as 2 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing about 25 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.
“He has unfettered access to her; welcome to come anytime,” she said. “He’s never been anything but loving and committed to her. I know he probably wants to see Bianca home as much as I do.
“I have no information on the investigation. My focus is on finding Bianca. That is what I’m driven to do right now is bring my daughter home. I just want to see Bianca again.
“We are looking for Bianca. We are trying to find her. We are going to bring Bianca home.”
Lane has been close to the Jones family for years, according to Kelly Jones, Banika’s sister.
“They were never officially in a relationship” and there was no “bad blood,” Kelly Jones said of Lane and Banika.
“There was no problem and now Bianca’s gone. Let’s just find her,” Kelly Jones said.
Locating a child that some fear is somewhere shivering in the cold is what prompted Michelle Carter to join the search Monday.
“It was cold,” Carter said after returning with others to Metropolitan United Methodist Church. “We went through the alleys. We searched porches, under debris, moved bags and went through trash. We called Bianca’s name.”
The 39-year-old nail salon owner refused to think the worst and admitted to having no idea what Bianca’s mother may be feeling.
“I don’t want to imagine. No,” Carter said. “Being a mother and not even knowing where your child is … I know is devastating.”