BELDING — More than 22 hours since he was last spotted, the search continues today for a 10-year-old Belding boy who went missing after he left his home to go fishing along the Flat River Saturday morning.
Devon Morrison was reported missing by his mother after he left his home on Harrison Street on the northeastern side of the city to go fishing at the Flat River, about 700 feet from home, at 10:30 a.m.
According to Police Chief Dale Nelson, the last confirmed sighting of Devon came later at 2:30 p.m. when a neighbor said they spotted him walking along the road with his fishing pole in hand. He is believed to have been wearing a red sweatshirt with the word “Starter” written across the chest and black pants.
A search involving numerous agencies, including the Belding Police Department, Belding Fire Department, Ionia County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police and the FBI began early this morning as divers searched the waters of the Flat River and a helicopter performed scans from above.
The search has grown to involve community members, who are working hand-in-hand with police officers to search the shoreline of the river and other areas of interest, such as Lightning Bend Park.
Search and rescue dogs were also brought in this morning and were taken by boat along the river to search for Devon or any evidence relating to his disappearance.
Nelson said the single goal as of now is to locate Devon.
“Number one, we want to find Devon,” Nelson said. “I know Devon, I’ve talked to Devon. He does very well, he’s very active. He moves to his own drum sometimes, but he’s a good kid. If he’s out there I know he’s going to make the right choice and come back and let us know where he is at.”
Nelson said Devon’s disappearance is being treated as suspicious due to the nature of his disappearance.
“Because he has not been located and we don’t have a firm direction as to where he is at, we are treating it as possible criminal activity,” he said. “When you have a 10-year-old that’s not where he’s supposed to be, it’s suspicious and we will treat it that way.”
More than 40 community members gathered inside the command center set up within the Belding VFW Hall on Bridge Street at about 10 a.m., and many more have volunteered since to search the area for Devon. They joined with police officers and began searching the northern shore of the Flat River from the Bridge Street to Ashfield Street.
Earlier in the morning, volunteers searched the shoreline from Bridge Street to M-44, but no leads in the investigation were discovered.
Mary Maharry was one of those volunteers, who brought her son Matthew Patrick, 10, a close friend of Devon, to help search.
“I just heard he was missing this morning, it’s heartbreaking,” Maharry said.
Maharry said she is trying to remain hopeful, but said it was difficult to do so as she and her son scanned the weeds along the shore of the river.
“It’s just so hard to say, he was so little,” she said. “He’s the same age as my son, so it’s so hard.”
Maharry said as soon as she and her son heard word of Devon’s disappearance, they drove south two miles to Smyrna and began checking the river from there.
“It sounds really silly, but my son and I drove all the way out to Smyrna to look, but there was nothing out there.”
Devon’s mother, Shawna Smith, is still hopeful that her son will be found.
“I just want him home,” Smith said. “If anyone sees him, please call the police, or if you might know where might be. We need any information, because we have none.”
Smith said Devon frequently visited the Flat River to go fishing, but this is the first time he hasn’t come home.
“It’s unusual for him not to come home or stay out all night,” she said. “It’s unusual for him to leave his worms and shoes behind, and nobody has seen his fishing pole yet.”
Nelson confirmed that a container of “night crawlers” used as bait belonging to Devon was found along the shore of the river, however, he could not confirm that a pair of shoes that were also found near the river belonged to him.
“Devon wouldn’t have let go of that fishing rod to save his own life,” Smith said. “Fishing is what he’s doing when he’s not in school or doing homework. He grew up around lakes and rivers. It’s in his blood.”
Smith said fishing was an activity her son took up as it had a calming affect on his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“It was something that was calming to him and helped his ADHD, but now its turned into the worst thing I ever let him do.”
Smith said she is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
“My optimism is beginning to fade,” she said.
Nelson said door-to-door searches began at 9 a.m. near the vicinity of Devon’s home.
“(The door-to-door) search kicked off at 9 a.m. this morning,” Nelson said. “We have several teams in the field. We are going door-to-door, checking yards. We ask the general public to check their own yards to make sure Devon is not hiding someplace under a trailer or inside a car or garage.”
Nelson said the FBI became involved in the investigation as of Saturday evening.
“The FBI was on the phone with us early last night and contacted me again this morning,” he said. “Our hope is to locate Devon and basically we would bring this to a positive end. With them on board it’s bringing a different depth to our investigative resources.”
Nelson said the community-wide search for Devon has been uplifting and diligent.
“We all are pretty much family and know each other (in Belding),” he said. “My own son played baseball with Devon this past summer season. You can see the outpouring of people. As soon as (news) broke last night we had people in the field volunteering their time, resources and talents to try and locate Devon and bring him home safely.”
Nelson said if Devon is not found by the time the area door-to-door searches are completed, the search will begin to span outside of Belding.
Nelson said family members are being questioned in the investigation.
Devon is a fifth grade student at Woodview Elementary School, and School Principal Bruce Cook said district administration members will meet at 4 p.m. today.
“We will put a crisis plan together no matter what happens to be prepared to take care of our students and teachers,” he said.
Cook said he knows Devon very well and it has been disheartening to learn of his disappearance.
“Everybody knows Devon, he’s a great kid,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking with him, and when we’re talking, it’s about fishing.”
Nelson asks anyone who is searching and discovers any information to call 9-1-1, the Belding Police Department at (616) 794-1900, or Ionia County Central Dispatch at (616) 522-0911.