National group aids in missing boy search

A national group entered the months-long search for a missing 4-year-old boy on Saturday, joining with local volunteers for an all-day combing of the area around a north Dayton waterway.

Texas Equusearch grouped with the ongoing effort, dubbed “Team Zaden,” to look for 4-year-old Zaden McKnight. The boy hasn’t been seen since March, and his mother’s dead body was found in April. Police have said the boy is also presumed dead.

The group worked from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and did not find the boy. Dave Rader, Texas Equusearch search coordinator, said about 40 volunteers were involved in Saturday’s search.

“We covered a lot of ground today, it just wasn’t the right ground,” Rader said.

Spreading out along the Stillwater River with canoes, kayaks and other transportation, the group used tools ranging from chainsaws to cut limbs to electronic equipment in the search that increased in intensity with the involvement of the national organization.

“We got more tools, more people, more help, more hands,” said Jessica Cade, Zaden McKnight’s aunt.

Although many of the searchers were expected to re-check areas that might have been covered in other searches, Rader said that’s common with fresh volunteers and after a longer period of time.

“Another set of eyes on the same area isn’t a bad thing,” he said. “Someone might see something that someone else didn’t see.”

Given the time span since Zaden McKnight was last seen and the fact that his mother was found next to the same river, the groups were focusing their attention on the waterway and banks, Rader said.

Zaden McKnight and his mother were last seen in March, shortly after Nichelle McKnight reportedly confronted her boyfriend, Antwan Anderson, about thefts. Anderson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a police shootout after a pursuit on April 7. Nichelle McKnight’s body was discovered on April 11 on the banks of the Stillwater River.

Zaden McKnight has remained missing since. Rader said that even if he were not found Saturday, his group’s involvement could be useful beyond just Saturday.

“Part of our goal is to educate, so some of these methods can be used in other searches,” he said.