The father and step-mother of the 11-year-old boy who ran away from his Plain Dealing home Tuesday evening have been arrested on six charges of physical child abuse, neglect and drug use.
Ernest W. Bell III, 43, and Kristen M. Downs, 30, of the 700 block of Kilgore Road in Plain Dealing, were each booked into the Bossier Maximum Security Facility Thursday afternoon on the following charges:
- Cruelty to a Juvenile
- Criminal Neglect of Family
- Illegal Carry of Weapons with a Controlled Dangerous Substance
- Illegal Use of a Controlled Dangerous Substance in the Presence of a Juvenile
- Possession of Marijuana
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
The case began Tuesday evening when their son, Grayson “Blayne” Bell, was reported to the Bossier Sheriff’s Office to have run away from home. Deputies and detectives began to search for Blayne Tuesday evening into Wednesday, including using 4-wheelers and K-9 teams scouring the area. Some 25 hours later around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Blayne, tired and hungry, by another family about 5 miles from his residence after hearing of the case on the news.
As Bossier detectives continued their investigation into the matter Wednesday evening, they immediately contacted the Department of Children and Family Services after finding significant bruising on the child’s body. DCFS officials took custody of the boy, and he told them and Bossier investigators he had been physically abused while at home. Detectives determined the bruising on his body were consistent with those statements, and post Miranda, both Downs and Bell admitted to some abuse in the past.
The couple also admitted to removing their son out of public school about two years ago to be home-schooled, but never followed the appropriate program nor registered the home schooling with the state for approval.
During the investigation, detectives also obtained verbal consent to search the residence, where they found marijuana, smoking devices, multiple rifles, shotguns and pistols. The couple admitted to smoking marijuana in the house while their son was present.
The twist of events in the case with the safe return of Blayne following a 25-hour search for the boy came on the heels of an intense investigation by the Bossier Sheriff’s Office.
“Our focus during the time of the search was to find this young boy and bring him to safety,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington. “I commend my deputies and detectives for their relentless search for Blayne, and I’m equally appreciative of the media and the public for their attention to this case. Blayne remains in the custody of DCFS.”
Bonds for Downs and Bell are pending.