MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: ‘We want to find Devon’

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 12:59 pm on Monday, September 16, 2013

Volunteers and law enforcement officials comb the bank of the Flat River Sunday morning in search of 10-year-old Devon Morrison, who went missing Saturday after fishing in the river. — Daily News/Cory Smith

BELDING — Devon Morrison loves fishing.

He took up the activity when he found it had a calming affect on his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

When he’s not in school or doing homework, the 10-year-old can often be found fishing.

Morrison left his home around 10:30 a.m. Saturday to go fishing on the Flat River just about 700 feet away from his house in Belding.

He never returned.

Devon Morrison

According to Police Chief Dale Nelson, the last confirmed sighting of Morrison was around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, when a neighbor spotted him walking along the road with his fishing pole in his hand. He is believed to have been wearing a red sweatshirt with the word “Starter” written across the chest.

The city of Belding has been swamped with numerous law enforcement agencies searching for Morrison over the weekend. Assisting the Belding Police Department with the effort is the Belding Fire Department, the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office, the Michigan State Police and the FBI. Divers have been searching the waters of the Flat River while a helicopter performed scans from above. Search and rescue dogs were brought in Sunday morning and were taken by boat along the river to search for Morrison or any evidence relating to his disappearance. Morrison’s family members are being questioned.

“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 Morrison’s disappearance is being treated as suspicious at this time.

“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.”

The search was put on hold Sunday night after it became to dark for volunteers to search safely. The search is set to resume this morning after law enforcement officials regroup.

Nelson said they have been receiving numerous tips about Morrison’s disappearance, but nothing has developed yet.

“It’s been pretty stagnant,” he said. We’re getting some tips that are working, but there’s just not a lot of meat there.”

Anyone with any information about Morrison is asked to call 911, the Belding Police Department at (616) 794-1900 or Ionia County Central Dispatch at (616) 522-0911.

Anyone wishing to help search is asked to go to the command post located at the Belding VFW at 114 N. Bridge St. to check in with authorities.


A mother’s hope

Morrison’s mother, Shawna Smith, is clinging to hope 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 her son 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 Morrison 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 had a calming affect on her son.

“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,” she said.

Smith said she is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

“My optimism is beginning to fade,” she said.


Community effort

Community members are also working hand-in-hand with law enforcement officials to search the shoreline of the river and other local areas of interest, such as Lightning Bend Park.

More than 40 people gathered inside the command center set up within the Belding VFW Hall on Sunday morning and many more volunteered since to search the area for Morrison. They joined with police officers and began searching the northern shore of the Flat River from Bridge Street to Ashfield Street.

Volunteers also searched the shoreline from Bridge Street to M-44 earlier Sunday morning, but no clues were discovered.

Mary Maharry was one of the volunteers. She brought her son, Matthew Patrick, 10, a close friend of Devon, to help search. 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 heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s just so hard to say. He was so little. He’s the same age as my son, so it’s so hard.”

Maharry said as soon as she and her son heard about Devon’s disappearance, they drove two miles south 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.”

The FBI became involved in the investigation Saturday evening.

“Our hope is to locate Devon and basically we would bring this to a positive end,” Nelson said. “With them on board it’s bringing a different depth to our investigative resources.”

Nelson said door-to-door searches began at 9 a.m. Sunday near the vicinity of Devon’s home. He said if Morrison 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 the community-wide search for Morrison 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 … we had people in the field volunteering their time, resources and talents to try and locate Devon and bring him home safely.”

Nelson said he has been impressed and humbled by the hundreds of volunteers who came out to help find Morrison.

“I want to say thank you to everybody and all of their concerns in wanting to do everything they can to find Devon,” he said.


School crisis team

Morrison is a fifth-grader at Woodview Elementary School. Principal Bruce Cook said he knows Devon well and the news of his disappearance has been disheartening.

“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.”

Belding Area Schools Superintendent Sara Shriver said her district crisis team met Sunday and are prepared to meet with students today who have concerns or questions about Morrison’s disappearance.

“Our administrators, our counselors and our social workers met to review our crisis plan,” she said. “We have a good plan in place to help students, families or staff members. As more information becomes available we will continue to provide the support that is needed. We are working with local law enforcement and will have counselors and social workers on hand.”

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