We looked at the mother's statement while Amber was missing. It used the pronoun "I" and the possessive pronoun "my" repeatedly, showing up close and personal connection. This was explicitly missing from the language of Deborah Bradley, mother of missing Baby Lisa. In Bradley's case, she used "we" and "our", showing distancing language, and referenced Lisa in the past tense, indicating knowledge of death.
The parents of Amber Rose Smith allowed their minds to entertain dark thoughts while rescuers searched overnight for the girl who wandered off from her northern Newaygo County home and trekked nearly two miles in the woods while barely clothed.
"You got your mind going, racing. You don't know whether or not she's going to be alive or dead. You have that stuff going through your mind," said Diane Smith, Amber's mother.
Note that "you" is distancing language. The child has now been found, and we see the mother distancing herself from the doubts, but next notice that priority is seen in order:
"alive or dead", with "alive" coming before "dead." This is also expected from an innocent mother.
Amber's family, police and a group of 300 people, many concerned strangers, capped a stressful and frantic 24 hours with a happy ending Wednesday when searchers found the toddler, clad in only a tank top, standing next to a fallen tree along a two-track road.
Once at the hospital for evaluation, Amber simply wanted some hot chocolate.
The girl was treated for minor scrapes and bruises, but she otherwise appeared fine after walking through a heavily wooded area without shoes and surviving overnight temperatures that dipped to 43 degrees.
"This is the best day of our lives," Smith said Wednesday, Oct. 9. "I can't ask for more."
Note the change from plural to singular
Amber wandered off from her Barton Township home about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8. Her father, Dale Smith, told authorities he was in a separate room from Amber, and when he walked to where she was, she was gone. Smith searched for the girl for about a half hour before calling 911.
Amber had walked out of the house before, but family members had found her without incident, relatives told police.
Initially, only authorities searched the area near her home at 13 Mile Road and Cottonwood Avenue, using search dogs and helicopters. Volunteers were asked to join the effort at 11 p.m. Tuesday. An Amber Alert was issued late that night.
Volunteers on Wednesday continued to comb a mile of dense wooded area near Amber's home while cars of others eager to help formed long lines near Hawkins Township Hall, where Newaygo County Emergency Services personnel organized volunteer teams. About 200 people from the public assisted, said Abby Watkins, emergency services director.
Not long before Amber was located at 1:40 p.m., Newaygo County Undersheriff Brian Boyd said at a press conference that it was "very suspicious" the search at that point hadn't turned up a trace of the missing toddler.
Sheriff's deputies said state Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Mike Wells was the first to find Amber on the edge of a two-track road. Wells was among a group of about seven people riding off-road vehicles.
Conservation Officer Jeff Ginn approached the girl. She was crying, but calmed soon after she realized she was safe.
Ginn wrapped the toddler in a jacket and gave her water before she was loaded into an ORV and taken to the nearest road for a waiting ambulance.
"Words cannot describe the feeling, they just can't," Ginn said. "This is why we do what we do."
Newaygo County sheriff's Deputy David Israel was among the group and said "it was unbelievable" to see the child "completely calm." The elated searchers offered high-fives to one another.
Authorities were surprised Amber was found safe and without injuries after a long walk and a night alone.
"It's hard to imagine how a 2 1/2-year-old can survive that distance through the woods with that kind of temperature," Boyd said.
Amber apparently traveled east from her home at 13 Mile Road near Cottonwood Avenue and south at Beech Avenue. She ended up near Cedar Avenue and 12 Mile Road, about 1 3/4 miles southeast of her home. Amber crossed at least one road, Boyd said.
Watkins said a positive outcome is not common for the given conditions.
"It's amazing to have the outcome that we did. It's a rarity when we're able to actually locate somebody alive, especially after 24 hours and have her be so young," Watkins said.
Authorities will conduct a follow-up investigation delving into why Amber was able to walk off alone this time and in the past.
"Of course the fact that she did wander away from the house, that’s a concern. It’s going to be a follow up with the family and I’m sure over the next few days there will be quite a few more interviews," Boyd said.