Divers find body of toddler in Hillsborough River


Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — Divers found the body of a 2-year-old Tampa boy in the Hillsborough River Wednesday morning, hours after he wandered away from his mother as she packed her car after her older son's youth practice.

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor called Armani Pierce's death "a parent's worst nightmare."

The boy was reported missing from Temple Crest Park shortly after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Early Wednesday, bloodhounds alerted searchers to an algae-covered spot in the river about one-tenth of a mile from the park.

Family, friends and searchers cried with 24-year-old Alicia Sanders after authorities told her the boy's body had been found.

Police and rescue workers began an intensive search as soon as the boy was reported missing, using helicopters, boats and bloodhounds. Officers also went door-to-door in the neighborhood, checking in on sexual predators in the area.

Grandmother Jackie Sanders told the newspaper Armani's 6-year-old brother plays on the Tampa Bay Ravens football team. His 4-year-old sister is a cheerleader. The family was at the park for practice when Armani slipped away.

Some 300 people, including volunteers who heard about the missing child, showed up to help with the search.

The body was found around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday in about 6 feet of water.

The boy's great-aunt, Sarah Mosley, told the Tampa Tribune (http://bit.ly/1bvmPAl ) Armani probably thought the algae-covered water was grass.

Volunteer Quandra Smith says people passed the spot looking for the child throughout the evening. "We were just standing right here last night," she said.

Castor, the police chief, met with Sanders and her former boyfriend Carlos Pierce Jr. after the body was found.

"We are trying to console the family now and do everything we can for the mother and the father," she said. "It's a very tragic, very sad situation that we wished could have had a positive or happy outcome."

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