LEBANON JUNCTION, KY (WAVE) – The Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed two-year-old Charlee Campbell has been found safe.
She was found in the 32nd hour of the search, around 6 p.m. Friday. Charlee had been missing since 10 a.m. Thursday. She was last seen at her grandmother’s home in the 600 block of Winding Hollow Road off Lower Beech Grove Road.
Charlee turned up about 500 yards from there.
She was still wearing a pajama top with a Frozen character on it, which is what she was believed to be wearing when she disappeared. Officials said her diaper was gone.
Southeast Bullitt Fire Chief Erik Butler said he was sitting at Charlee’s grandparent’s house when the dog she was thought to be with, Penny the pitbull, showed up at the house on Friday evening.
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Butler said he thought Charlee had to be close by. When he called Bullitt County Sheriff Donnie Tinnell, Tinnell confirmed they had Charlee just down the road, and she was safe.
Officials found Charlee walking out of the woods. They said she came from a hill across from the house where she went missing. She was covered with ticks, mud and scratches, and obviously dehydrated, but otherwise OK, police said.
“I can’t believe she survived it,” Tinnell said. “There’s coyotes in them hills. There’s copperheads and rattlesnakes and ticks — all the elements. And somehow she came out in pretty good shape.”
Search and rescue crews, along with volunteers, were combing the woods for the entire 32 hours the search was on for her. Tinnell and Butler said search crews looked at that particular hill where she was at least five or six times on Thursday.
“That big dog (Penny), because he’s huge, and that child looks like it would be hard to miss,” he said. “But it might be a circumstance where she got tired and laid down and went to sleep for hours on end — behind a stump or behind a tree or who knows what, a big rock — it’s possible to overlook, I guess, if the dog laid down with her.
“I’m not for sure going to say what I think happened. I don’t know,” Tinnell continued. “But we can get some answers with some continued investigation and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Child Protective Services was conducting interviews at Charlee’s home.
Tinnell said the county would obtain warrants for phones and personal tablets to try to find more information.
“If she was in the woods the whole time surely it’s a miracle,” he said. “Was she? I don’t know.”
Charlee was taken to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville to recover from the ordeal.
Tinnell said her mother and grandparents will be able to visit her in the hospital. Charlee’s mother doesn’t have custody of her, her grandparents do. However, her mother, Natalie Quick, said she visits her everyday.
“I don’t have to worry about my kid being dead,” Quick said through tears after news her daughter was found.
“Penny came home,” Quick said of the dog. “And not two minutes later here come Charlee down the hill. It gives me cold chills.”
She wanted to thank all of the volunteers and emergency crews who helped with the search for her daughter.
“I’m not going to let her go this time,” Quick said.
She said along with the relief that Charlee is alive, she was glad to hopefully put some rumors to rest.
“Us as a family did not do anything to hurt that baby,” Quick said. “She is perfectly fine.”
Earlier in the day on Friday, some feared for the worst, as four cadaver dogs concentrated on a pool on the family’s property.
FBI investigators interviewed family members. A cousin of Charlee’s was taken into custody in connection with her disappearance, but he is no longer a person of interest in the case, Tinnell said.
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Police searched Charlee’s mother’s home, who lives a few miles away from the home where she was last seen. Tinnell said nothing was found during the search.
Charlee’s father lives in Bowling Green and has been denied visitation. Tinnell said Charlee’s father has not seen her since September 2017. Kentucky State Police troopers searched his home Thursday. Tinnell said at this point he does not believe the father was involved in Charlee’s disappearance.
On Thursday, Charlee’s mother’s boyfriend was taken into custody on outstanding, unrelated warrants, according to Tinnell.
Charlee’s mother and grandmother were taken in for questioning and her grandfather was also questioned Friday. Tinnell said authorities asked tough questions and do not have any reason to dispute the answers the family provided at this point.
Charlee’s grandparents have custody of her. Tinnell said their home has also been searched and nothing was found.
He also said deputies searched the property of the cousin who was questioned.
Officials originally said Charlee was autistic but Tinnell said Friday that she was not and that she does speak.
Southeast Bullitt Fire Department and the Bullitt Co. Sheriff’s Office were among the multiple agencies involved in the search. Because the area where the girl was last seen borders Fort Knox, the Army was also conducting a search on their property.
Again, the investigation is not over. Anyone with tips is asked to call the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office at (502) 543-1262.
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