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Missing boy, 8, may be hurt, police tell searchers in Boise

Evidence at mother’s home changes tone of their investigation

BOISE – A Boise search for a missing 8-year-old took a grim turn as police suggested he may be hurt – or worse – and searched the apartment of his mother, who has a history of harming another child.

Police and FBI detectives Friday coordinated more than 1,500 volunteers in a massive search for Robert Manwill, who reportedly disappeared July 24 after leaving his mother’s apartment on the southwest side of Idaho’s capital city.

Early in the week, investigators said they had no evidence suggesting foul play.

But Deputy Chief Jim Kerns changed course Friday, saying new evidence recovered in a Thursday night search of the apartment of the boy’s mother, Melissa Scott Jenkins, has detectives tracking new leads.

“The evidence we’ve uncovered shows that there are suspicious circumstances surrounding Robert’s disappearance,” Kerns said during a press conference.

“Volunteers assisting in the search today are being given the information by search team officers that Robert may indeed be injured or the victim of a tragic event.”

So far, police say there are no arrests or suspects in the case. Investigators were seen taking an SUV and other items during the search of Jenkins’ apartment Thursday night.

Jenkins has been at previous press conferences, but didn’t attend Friday. Police wouldn’t say where she was.

The boy was visiting her the night he disappeared. His father, Charles Manwill, has had custody since 2008 and lives in New Plymouth, about 45 miles northwest of Boise.

Court records show a history of family tragedies involving young children.

Jenkins pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor charge of injury to a child following an October 2008 incident that fractured her infant son’s skull.

Jenkins “did willfully inflict” the injury to her other son “by striking the child’s head on a surface, causing a fracture to the child’s skull,” on Oct. 19, 2008. She was sentenced to 29 days of work release, fined $75.50 and put on probation for two years, according to court documents.

That child is the son of Jenkins’ boyfriend, Daniel Edward Ehrlick. The boy was in the care of the state Department of Health and Welfare through at least February, according to court documents. The agency will not release his whereabouts, citing policy.

Jenkins has a third child, a 2-year-old daughter fathered by a third man, who has custody of her. Jenkins has visitation rights.

Ehrlick, who has been convicted of burglary, battery and possession of drug paraphernalia, is banned from being alone with the girl, but court documents don’t say why.

In another case, Charles Manwill’s former wife stabbed their 4-year-old son, Michael, in the chest in 1993, killing him. Silke Fatma Manwill pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, was sentenced to federal prison and released in 2002.

Charles Manwill was among family members who flanked chief Kerns as he spoke to reporters Friday.

“We want everyone not to give up hope,” said Trisha Burrill, the boy’s aunt. “Please help us bring Robert home.”

Boise police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said volunteers on Friday covered a 1.5- to 2-mile radius around the scene where the boy was reported missing.

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