TBI issues alert for missing children
Even as cadaver dogs continued their search Wednesday afternoon for the remains of two children in the burned wreckage of the Leon and Molly McClaran home on Kingdom Road near Rover, state investigators said 9-year-old Chloie Leverette and 7-year-old Gage Daniel may be alive.
"According to state bomb and arson investigators, the children were not victims of the fire and their whereabouts are unknown at this time," a TBI press release said.
The State Fire Marshal's Office said in a statement that it has concluded "that there are no remains of the two children in the structure. The children's location at this time is unknown."
But TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said there is no evidence that the children were not in the house.
District Attorney Robert Carter asked the agency to investigate the fatal fire and the whereabouts of the children, Helm told the Associated Press.
"Under an abundance of caution we decided to issue an endangered child alert for the two children if they are not in fact found in the fire," Helm said.
Investigators are speaking with family, friends and teachers at Community Elementary School, where the children attended, Helm said.
The childrens' status was changed from dead to "missing" by Sheriff Randall Boyce on Wednesday morning. Boyce said Wednesday afternoon he still believes the children had been lost in the fire, suggesting the extremely high temperatures reached in the blaze may have eliminated any traces of their bodies.
Boyce said Wednesday afternoon his department has not received any information at any time that the children survived. The bodies of the McClarans, who were grandparents of the children, were taken to Nashville for autopsies, the TBI said.
Chloie Leverette, who has previously been named by officials as Chloe Pope, is listed as a white female with brown hair and hazel eyes. She stands 4-feet-8 and weighs 75 points. Gage Daniel has brown hair and hazel eyes, is 4 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds, the release says.
The children were last seen by a neighbor at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, according to the TBI. The home was reported burning by a neighbor later Sunday night.
Call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND with information.
Before the TBI's announcement, their agents searched the fire scene as cadaver dogs from Stewart County Emergency Management Agency sniffed piles of burnt wreckage and the remains of the home's basement.
"They've hit on a few areas and we've gone back and searched," Bedford County Fire Chief Mark Thomas. "Some of what we found has been sent to be tested to see if it's human remains. We also found some teeth. The state fire marshal took them to a dentist to see if they're from a human."
The Stewart County team was inspecting the piles of debris stacked near the home Wednesday, Thomas said.
"We brought out the debris of the home piece by piece," Thomas said. "The Bedford County Highway Department brought in equipment and Lee Adcock Construction brought in a Bobcat to remove the debris.
"Since the debris was removed and rearranged we thought we'd bring in a crew that specialized in that," Thomas said.
Stewart County's crew was heavily involved in inspecting debris from the World Trade Center in New York following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"We wanted to make sure we covered everything thoroughly and make sure nothing was left behind," Thomas said. "We searched thoroughly Tuesday and feel like we got everything."
The Tennessee Highway Patrol sent a helicopter to search the area around the home Wednesday morning.
"They searched over the fire scene and looked in the areas around it to see if the kids could have escaped and collapsed," Thomas said.