FAITHORN, Mich. (WJMN) — It was a normal evening in Faithorn for the Chase family on Wednesday before the disappearance and extensive search-and-rescue operation for their toddler, who was ultimately found using a family dog as a pillow.
Brooke Chase was home with her son and 2-year-old daughter, Thea. Her husband, Alex Chase, was at work. Marcus Christy, Alex Chase’s brother-in-law, was also at the house.
“She is her uncle’s shadow and is constantly with him,” Brooke Chase said. “That’s why it’s such a shock to us that she left his side.”
“I was pressure-washing the side of the house and porch, and I’d taken a little break, and we were hanging out for a minute,” Christy said. “I told her to go back in the house, and she came around the corner again. I told her, ‘No, you need to go back in the house, it’s getting dark, it’s time for bed.’ And I thought she went back in the house.”
But Christy said when he yelled into the house, Brooke Chase asked him if Thea was outside.
“I thought she went in the house,” Christy said. “So we instantly just started going, looking for her everywhere.”
The realization set the whole family on high alert, trying to do everything they could to find the toddler.
After their initial search, they noticed Thea wasn’t the only one missing.
“We were searching all around the yard, up and down the road, screaming at the top of our lungs her name, calling for the dogs — because the dogs were missing too,” Brooke Chase said.
It was about that time when Brooke Chase called her husband at work.
“My wife called me, and as soon as I heard her voice, I knew that something was definitely wrong,” Alex Chase said. “I didn’t think twice. I just came home.”
Brooke said the search for Thea started around 7:40 p.m., and by 8 p.m., police were mobilizing resources.
“We had a lot of boots on the ground in a very short period of time,” Michigan State Police Iron Mountain Post Commander Jeremy Hauswirth said. “We had drones that were on site, police K-9s from several different departments, both state police and county. We had citizen volunteers and search-and-rescue available.”
Christy and the Chase family said the response from the community was incredible.
At the beginning of the search, Christy said he was optimistic. “My whole thought was that, you know, she had to be somewhere close by. We just needed people to help find her.”
Four long hours later came news of the discovery — not by the drones or the K-9s, but by a family friend on an ATV.
“He went way, way farther than anybody else was searching,” Brooke Chase said. “And she was way out there. He had said that if it wasn’t for the dogs poking out of the trees, he would not have seen her.”
It was Buddy, the big Rottweiler, that the man found first. Brooke Chase said he was laying near a berm a short distance from an ATV trail.
When the man stopped to investigate, he found Thea sleeping with Hartley, another dog, under her head.
When Thea was found, Brooke Chase was at the house, and Christy said he and Alex Chase were leading a search party in another part of the woods.
“As soon as we heard she was found, I started running. And I was like — I stopped because I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t even know where the heck she is.’ You know what I mean?” Christy recounted. “Me and Alex both just started running. And then they said they’re en route back to the house. We started running back to the house.”
As for the police investigation, authorities said they don’t believe foul play or negligence played a role.
Hauswirth said sometimes, things like this are inevitable.
“I’ve raised four kids of my own, and you can be the best parent on the planet and they have their own minds,” Hauswirth said. “They will do things in an instant that will surprise you. Even the best of parents can blink and their child can be gone.”
With Thea in her arms, Brooke Chase said, “She has no idea. The amount of stress that she put me through last night, and her father, and everybody else.”
The Chase family said they would like to thank everyone involved in the search to find their daughter.