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Local authorities believe a missing 5-year-old may be in danger due to the mental state of the woman he was last seen with, according to Smith County Sheriff’s Office detectives.
Zachariah Sutton, 5, was last seen by his family at 11 a.m. Sunday at his 838 Farm-to-Market residence near Overton, according to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. Larry Christian. The Texas Department of Public Safety issued an amber alert this morning, describing this as child abduction.
Christian said the boy’s grandmother, who is his legal guardian, allowed “family friend” Pamala Yvonne Medlock, 59, to pick him up from the house to go toy shopping. Neither has been seen in person since, though investigators are working on some leads thanks to camera footage.
Zacharias is described as a black man, standing 3-foot-5 and weighing about 60 to 70 pounds, and was last seen wearing gray sweats with black and white shoes.
Medlock is described as a black female, 5-foot-6, of medium build, with rows of cornrows, according to the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. She was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, baggy khaki pants, and a light brown plaid jacket, according to RailsBack. She does not have a permanent address but frequents Overton and Kilgore. She also frequented Valero’s convenience store in Overton. She drives a black 2007 Jeep Wrangler 4-Door with RVZ5847 license plates, according to Christian.
Christian said during a press conference Monday morning that authorities believe Zakaria may be in danger because of Medeluk’s mental state. Law enforcement in Rusk, Gregg, and Smith counties reported that Medlock has used drugs in the past and has potential mental health issues. The family had not reported any mental or drug problems and had no red flags about Medlock until Monday morning, according to the Smith County Sheriff. Jason Railsback.
“Just to be clear, we do not believe at this time that Ms. Medlock would harm the child,” Christian said. “It’s circumstantial that she could make it in the middle of it, especially if she’s had some kind of seizure, and even with past drug use, I don’t know what her mindset is.”
According to Christian, Zachariah’s birthday was just a few days ago and the family said Medlock wanted to buy him some gifts. This was not unusual, as Medlock had been a family friend for several years and often spent time at home. She’s taken Zachariah shopping before, helped with homework, and other essential things, according to Railsback, who leads the crimes against persons unit in the mayor’s office.
Still camera footage places Zacharias and Medlock at the Troupe Highway Walmart between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, just about 12 hours before the child’s disappearance was officially reported to law enforcement. The footage shows the couple walking to the store at 2:41pm and also hanging out together after shopping and buying toys.
The footage shows the two walking around the store with normal behaviors, according to Railsback, who said Walmart saw no red flags in the interactions and said Zacharias wasn’t afraid or in distress at the time.
The camera footage also provided an image of the black Jeep, which the Smith County Sheriff’s Office said was the suspect vehicle, in a Walmart parking lot. In addition, the vehicle was spotted around 5:30 p.m. Sunday in Kaufman County heading west towards Dallas on Interstate 20.
“We’re looking extensively in the Dallas area right now,” said Railsback. “Child Protective Services, FBI Tyler and FBI Dallas, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (are all involved). We are using all available resources at this time and doing everything we can to search for this child.”
An AMBER alert, which identifies Medlock as the suspect, was issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety around 7 a.m. Monday. Since Zacharias has gone out with Medlock in the past and she is a close friend of the family, his guardians had no reason to worry and didn’t want to consider the possibility of him missing until they called law enforcement around 3 a.m. Monday.
“The family had no reason not to let (Zacharia) go with Medlock or suspect she would take him back, their going out was not uncommon,” said Railsback.
But as the day went on and they still hadn’t heard from Medlock, who doesn’t have a cell phone, or seen the couple go back to the Overton house, the family was starting to get worried.
“I think it was one of those things that they didn’t think could happen to them, so they were waiting for the time to pass and eventually the grandchild would come back, and it turned out that wasn’t really so, they stayed up until about 3am waiting for it to happen and decided to call the authorities.” Law enforcement to get us involved.”
The department said an investigation is underway.
Zakaria is a pre-kindergarten student at Arp ISD, according to the district.
“We have alerted our entire school district community to be informed and ask for prayers for his safe and speedy recovery,” said Mike Alzamora, Arp ISD spokesperson.
If you have any information about the whereabouts of Zacharias or Medlock, please call 9-1-1 immediately or the Smith County Sheriff’s Office at (903) 566-6600.
AMBER ALERTS informs the public of serious child abduction cases, in an effort to bolster advice and lead law enforcement, according to the Texas DPS. In memory of the tragic death of Amber Hagerman, the letters of her name can be seen in the title of the program, Missing America: Emergency Broadcast Response (AMBER).
AMBER ALERTS can only be issued if a missing persons case meets certain criteria:
- Is that child of age 17 or younger, whose whereabouts are unknown, and whose disappearance, unwillingly determined by law enforcement authorities, poses a real threat to the child’s safety and health; And if the abduction was committed by a parent or legal guardian, was the abduction in the context of attempted murder or murder?
- Is that a child 13 years of age or younger, who has been taken (willingly or unintentionally) without permission from the care and custody of a parent or legal guardian by:
- A person unrelated and over three years old, or another parent or legal guardian who attempted or committed murder at the time of the abduction?
- Is this child in immediate danger of sexual assault, death, or serious physical injury?
- Did a preliminary investigation verify the abduction and remove alternative explanations for the child’s disappearance?
- Is sufficient information available for release to the public to help locate the child, suspect, or vehicle used in the abduction?