The FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information regarding the whereabouts of a missing Mississippi toddler, who disappeared March 1.
Authorities began looking for 2-year-old Myra Lewis after family members realized she was missing. She may have been gone from her rural Camden home for hours by that time.
An Amber alert was issued last Sunday, and family members said Monday they believed she was kidnapped. But Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said that authorities aren’t sure.
Tucker said Monday he is still conducting the investigation with the belief the 2-year-old is alive, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
“I don’t have any reason to suggest otherwise, and I’m an optimistic person. I sincerely believe that in my heart,” he told reporters.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said the reward money might encourage someone who knows Myra's whereabouts to come forward.
“We believe there is someone out there who has information as to where little Myra is. We certainly hope by offering this reward, we’ll receive that information,” McMullen said Monday.
Tucker told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Sunday that the arrest of the girl’s mother, 35-year-old Ericka Lewis, on Friday on a probation violation was not connected to the disappearance.
Tucker said she faced a warrant for a probation violation following a welfare fraud conviction. She also faced a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Her family questioned whether authorities made the right decision arresting Myra's mother during the middle of the investigation, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
“I look at that as it should be something that would be irrelevant considering the circumstances and what’s going on and as far as Myra, that’s like double hurt for us,” said Martha Sanders, Ericka Lewis' mother.
Tucker told the newspaper the timing is unfortunate.
“There’s never a good time to go to jail for anyone, I don’t think,” he said. “Those warrants are issued by the judge, and it’s my duty to uphold the law.”
McMullen asked that anyone who might have information leading to the child's location contact the FBI at (601) 948-5000, or the Madison County Sheriff's Department at (601) 859-2345.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.