Denton police chief speaks on ‘tragic outcome’ of search for 2-year-old
A 2-year-old Denton boy who had been missing for about 16 hours was found dead inside of a neighbor’s vehicle shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday, police said.
Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon said during a press conference the vehicle was located “in pretty close proximity” to the apartment where 2-year-old Sarbesh Gurung lived. A neighbor found him when they tried to get inside the car, he said.
Police are awaiting a cause of death pending an autopsy by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. There were no signs of trauma to the body or foul play, Dixon said.
“It’s not a time to point fingers; it’s not a time to assign blame,” Dixon said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “It’s a time for us collectively to come together, grieve together and heal together.”
Sun shades had been pulled down inside the vehicle and the windows were tinted, making it nearly impossible to see inside, he said. There were no signs Sarbesh had been kidnapped or put in the car intentionally by family, he said. It wasn’t clear how he wound up in the vehicle.
Dixon said in an interview with the Star-Telegram on Wednesday afternoon that “as best we can tell, preliminarily, the vehicle was locked the last time that the owner said that they had got out of it.”
There are no persons of interest, Dixon said, because “we have nothing leading us to believe this was an intentional act of homicide.”
He said he didn’t know if police had searched that vehicle.
“Can we conclusively say that someone went and checked every door handle of every vehicle out there? Obviously we can’t say that,” he said.
Officer Allison Vetere, a Denton police spokesperson, said officers searched the area, including inside vehicles, but it wasn’t clear if they had searched that specific vehicle.
Dixon said in the interview with the Star-Telegram this was “the most tragic outcome that we could’ve thought of — that being an accidental loss of life.”
A vigil for Sarbesh was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 2400 block of W. Prairie St. in Denton, near the University of North Texas.
Missing, then recovered dead
The search began Tuesday afternoon for Sarbesh, whose mother told authorities that the toddler disappeared from the family’s apartment. Police said the mother called 911 within four minutes of realizing her son was missing.
Sarbesh was last seen slightly before 2 p.m. Tuesday at his home in the 2400 block of West Prairie Street in Denton. A search party of more than 200 people — including police officers, firefighters and community members — searched “three grids” surrounding the apartment complex, Dixon said. Police dogs also assisted in the search.
The large-scale searching was halted at 11 p.m. Tuesday, Dixon said, but smaller searches continued through the night.
The father of the child is a student at University of North Texas, according to his UNT classmate Hitesh Adhikari, who said they’re both from Nepal. He and other classmates joined the search Tuesday afternoon into the night, checking apartments, bushes, trees and other areas of the surrounding neighborhood.
“We feel very heartbroken ... hearing the news today,” Adhikari said Wednesday.
The family lives in a small apartment complex near the UNT campus. They also have an 8-year-old daughter, friends said.
Police were notified after 6 a.m. Wednesday by a person in a neighboring complex that “they had located the body of a child in the back of their vehicle,” Dixon said.
UNT President Neal Smatresk sent the following statement to the campus community Wednesday: “It is difficult to adequately express the sense of loss that I, and others at UNT, feel regarding the death of a young child. I want to thank the countless volunteers who joined the Denton Police Department to conduct the search near campus last night, and I appreciate UNT Police Chief Ed Reynolds and his officers for providing assistance. The community truly came together in the hope that the young boy would be found alive and safe. Our university family is pulling together to support the family during this trying time.”
Dixon said during the press conference the investigation is going to remain open “until we can answer all the questions that we have.”
But “there are some questions we’ll probably never have answers for, and that’s unfortunate,” he said.
During the interview with the Star-Telegram, he said the investigation process includes interviews, searching for video in the area and “any information we can get.”
He asked that, over the next few days, the public respect the privacy of the family.
“As you can imagine they’re extremely grief stricken.”