Boy, 4, found dead under home on Mich. reservation

June 29, 2012 8:58:55 AM PDT
Family and friends of a 4-year-old boy who was missing for a week awaited word Friday on what led investigators to return to his home on a mid-Michigan Indian reservation, where his family said the child's body was found under a porch.

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday night at a vigil for Carnel Chamberlain at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe's reservation in Isabella County where he had lived with his mother and her boyfriend.

"Nothing this monumentally horrific has ever happened in our community," said family spokesman Kevin Chamberlain, who grew up on the reservation and served as tribal chief from 1997 to 1999.

"Right now, it's a very somber place with a lot of broken hearts," Chamberlain told The Associated Press on Friday.

Carnel was reported missing June 21 while in the care of his mother's boyfriend. For days, investigators searched woods, ponds and the tribe's wastewater treatment areas to no avail. Police said the boyfriend was not very cooperative and has consulted a lawyer.

Carnel's body was discovered on Thursday under a wood porch or deck at his single-story home, said Chamberlain, who is a cousin of Carnel's mother, Jaimee Chamberlain.

The body "had to be in a grave. We had looked underneath before and didn't see anything," he said.

He said he didn't know why investigators went back to the house, which had been sealed off by tribal police days earlier. Authorities have announced no arrests.

A tribal spokesman said a news conference planned for Friday afternoon at the Isabella Indian Reservation was canceled. Federal authorities - who have jurisdiction over major crimes on Indian reservations - said little about the case Friday morning.

"A search was conducted" Thursday, the FBI said in a statement. "The FBI does not comment on pending criminal investigation and any charging documents will be released after an initial court appearance before the close of business."

A spokeswoman for a U.S. attorney's office in Detroit, which oversees federal cases in the area, said she had no information.

A tribal police car sat outside the family's house, less than a mile from tribal police headquarters and the offices of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. Just beyond the offices is the gleaming Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, which attracts gamblers from around the state and is the tribe's financial lifeblood.

Judy Klein, 68, of Mount Pleasant, drove to the boy's home about 70 miles north of Lansing on Friday morning to leave some flowers.

She said she was "sick about it" when she learned of the child's death.

"I'm a mother. I lost a child," she said, trying to hold back tears. "She was 26 and died in her sleep. I know the grief."

Klein left hydrangeas she had grown in her garden.

"This little boy is going back to the earth," she said.

At the vigil Thursday night attended by Jamie Chamberlain and other relatives, participants sang, played drums and spoke urging love and healing in the face of tragedy.

Carnel "didn't have time to grow up and enjoy life," tribal chief Dennis Kequom told the gathering. "He'll always be with us in our hearts."