UPDATE: 3 arrested on multiple drug, endangerment, interfering charges after investigation of missing child

Men arrested in connection with baby girl's July disappearance
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 8:29 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2023 at 10:22 PM CDT
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WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: Three people have been arrested after a child went missing in Parrish in July 2023.

According to the Parrish Police Department, the father of a missing 9-month-old, 30-year-old Jo Rilee Freeman, was at the address of 311 Crest Avenue in Parrish, and reported to officers that he went inside a residence to visit his friends and left the child in the running vehicle.

However, investigations have revealed that Jo Rilee Freeman drove to the 311 Crest Avenue address to conduct a drug transaction with Rodney Thomas inside of the residence. While he was in the residence, Freeman was made aware that his car was no longer in the driveway of the residence. Freeman drove around for several minutes before contacting police. Officers later located the missing vehicle 12 hours later after it had rolled 80 yards down a steep embankment across the street from the house that was completely covered in kudzu.

“We’ve done a lot of work getting fingerprints out of the car, getting data out of the car trying to figure out exactly what happened in this case, that’s why we made the arrests on the individuals that we did, we still have some questions that have yet to be answered so the investigation will continue on as we receive new evidence,” stated Parrish Police Chief Danny Woodard.

After evidence was reviewed by the Walker County District Attorney’s Office, the warrants below have been issued for the following people:

  • Madison Jo Rilee Freeman, 30, of Jasper - Conspiracy to Commit a Controlled Substance Crime and Endangering the Welfare of a Child
  • Rodney Thomas, 45, of Parrish, - Conspiracy to Commit a Controlled Substance Crime and Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance Crime
  • Mason Chapel, 19, of Parrish - Interfering with Governmental Operations

After Thomas was taken into custody by the Parrish Police Department, officials found nearly six grams of methamphetamine and a bottle of assorted prescription pills in his possession that did not belong to him. Thomas was taken to the Walker County Jail and currently has a cash bond set at $100,000.

Rilee Freeman was taken into custody in Jasper by Parrish and Cordova police officials and was transferred to the Walker County Jail. He will soon go before a judge, and will have a bond set at that time.

Chappell was taken into custody at his residence in Parrish and will go before a judge to have his bond set in the coming days.

UPDATE: Parrish Police have told WBRC that the missing 9-month-old girl in Parrish has been found alive.

The child was found inside the Lexus that was reported stolen Monday night. The vehicle was located in an overgrowth of kudzu in the area it was reported stolen from.

The child’s aunt Melinda Hutchison told WBRC that she was being taken to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham as precautionary measure, but that the family is “feeling ecstatic.”

“She’s been found and we couldn’t be any happier,” she said. “Have to give God all the glory.”

Police Chief Danny Woodard said in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that the situation is still an ongoing investigation. He said his department does not believe there is any threat to the community.

Woodard said that the area had been searched multiple times in the overnight hours, but it wasn’t until searching in daylight hours that the vehicle was able to be found at the location where it was initially reported stolen from.

The vehicle was later pulled from the kudzu and towed away.

Picture of white SUV in kudzu.
Picture of white SUV in kudzu.(Source: Parrish Police Department)
Vehicle towed away.
Vehicle towed away.(Source: Gillian Brooks/WBRC)

The photo of the 9-month-old has been removed from our story now that she has been found and is safe.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

ORIGINAL: Parrish officials are urging anyone with information about a missing 9-month-old to come forward and help find her.

Parrish Mayor Jared “Bubba” Cagle said Tuesday morning that the search lasted through the night, but she has yet to be found.

The Parrish Police Department received a call at approximately 7 p.m. that a vehicle was stolen from 311 Crest Avenue. The owner of the vehicle told police that his 9-month-old daughter was in the vehicle at the time.

“The Police Department, along with multiple agencies responded to the scene and began an immediate search of the area,” Police Chief Danny Woodard said. “Unfortunately, the child has yet to be located.”

Woodard said the priority is to locate the child, adding that “all resources at the local, state, and federal levels are being utilized.”

According to the child’s aunt, the father had gone into the home for just a moment and, within those few seconds, someone got in and stole the vehicle with the baby inside.

We don’t care about the car or anything else,” said Melinda Hutchison, the child’s aunt. “Just take the baby, put her somewhere safe and tell somebody anonymously. Just let us know.”

There is a $5,000 reward for the safe return of the 9-month-old.

The child is described as a white female, approximately 26 inches tall and weighs approximately 20 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a tie dye onesie and light pink shorts.

The vehicle stolen is a white Lexus RX350, tag number 3880AR8. The vehicle is said to have damage and tape on the rear passenger side.

Authorities are asking anyone with information to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-The-Lost (1-800-843-5678), the Parrish Police Department at 205-686-9991, or 911.

“Most of all we just urge anyone that has any information to bring the child home, please come forth,” Mayor Cagle said. “Please do your diligence and make this call.”

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