A couple who were the caretakers of a 4-year-old girl who went missing in Oklahoma have been arrested and are expected to face charges that include child neglect and murder.
Authorities have not said what they believe happened to 4-year-old Athena Brownfield. On Tuesday, she was reported missing after a postal worker found her 5-year-old sister walking alone outside their home in the town of Cyril.
The 5-year-old did not require any medical attention at the time and is currently in protective custody, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Public Information Officer Brook Arbeitman said at a news conference Wednesday. A search was launched for Athena, drawing multiple law enforcement agencies and volunteers.
On Thursday, Oklahoma investigators announced that the couple who had been caretakers of Athena and her sister were in custody after separate arrests.
Alysia Adams, 31, was arrested in nearby Grady County, Oklahoma, and faces two counts of child neglect, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Ivon Adams, 36, was arrested in Phoenix and is set to be extradited to Oklahoma on first-degree murder and child neglect, investigators said.
Meanwhile, trash services in Cyril have been suspended as search efforts continue, Arbeitman said at a news conference Thursday.
“We’re praying for her family and her relatives and for the investigators who are looking for her,” she said.
On Saturday night, community members gathered in Cyril and held a vigil for Athena.
“The search continues for Athena until otherwise told; we will continue to hope for her return. Officials have not told us to NOT continue the search," one of the organizers, Jamie Hood, told BuzzFeed News on Sunday. "We’re praying and hoping she is okay.”
With Adams facing a murder charge, questions and speculation have been rampant about what happened to the girl.
"It has been hard to see people saying she’s dead when there is nothing said like that from officials. We don’t want to miss an opportunity to possibly find her," Hood said. "Our greatest hope is that someone has her and she will be found safe."
Another organizer, Brooke Kelly, said she also hopes that Athena will still be found alive and that volunteers will keep searching until authorities provide more information.
"The community of Cyril and the surrounding communities have came together in a way I have never seen before," she told BuzzFeed News. "This little girl, Athena, has impacted thousands of lives, and most people have never even met her. As far as the officers, investigators, and volunteers are concerned, they were nothing short of amazing. They all worked tirelessly and [are] still continuing to search tirelessly."