MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (FOX19) - The Ohio River, which is at moderate flood stage, remains too high for dive teams and other first responders to search for the body of 6-year-old James Hutchinson, authorities said Wednesday.
The search is suspended for now.
Middletown’s police chief has determined they will continue to assess river levels for safety, a city spokeswoman said.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said his agency’s helicopter and any other equipment is ready to rejoin search and recovery efforts once those resume for the first-grader who attended Rosa Parks Elementary School.
Earlier this week, Middletown police asked the Butler County Sheriff’s Office to assist by sending its helicopter to search the river by air.
Multiple roads are now closed around and near the Ohio River in Cincinnati due to flooding. The river is expected to crest at 56 feet about 1 a.m. Thursday and then recede throughout the weekend.
“The water is too dangerous to risk someone’s life to get into the water,” Sheriff Jones tells FOX19 NOW.
“At this stage, it’s not a rescue, it’s a retrieval. I know that’s a harsh thing to say. It’s frustrating. All of us first responders want to find this little boy and give closure to the community and for the little boy’s sake.
“I’ve never seen such an outpouring from the community. This little boy is an angel now. He’s one of God’s little angels now and he’s feeling no pain, but we’ve got to find him and give it closure and so we are making everything, every piece of equipment we have, available if they need it and when they need it whether it be tomorrow, Friday or throughout the weekend.”
In a case that is making international headlines, the 6-year-old boy’s mother, Brittany Gosney, 29, reported her son missing Sunday but, according to Middletown police, then confessed to taking him and his siblings, 7 and 9, to a Preble County park about 3 a.m. Saturday and driving off, leaving the children behind.
She claimed her boyfriend, 42-year-old James Hamilton, was pressuring her to get rid of her three children, according to a report from the Preble County Sheriff’s Office.
Gosney took James and her two other children to the area of Rush Run Wildlife in Preble County around 3 a.m. Feb. 27, the sheriff’s office report reads.
Gosney told investigators during an interview she planned to get the three kids out of the minivan and leave them behind.
The children were outside the van when 6-year-old James tried getting back in by grabbing the door handle.
Gosney “slammed the gas,” according to the report. James was dragged for a distance and was run over, investigators said.
She told them James was dead when she turned the minivan around to check on him.
The report says Gosney put James’ body and the two kids into the van and then went back to the home where she and Hamilton lived on Crawford Street in Middletown.
Hamilton and Gosney moved James’ body to a spare bedroom for an unknown time, according to the sheriff’s office.
Around 3 a.m. Sunday, Gosney and Hamilton put James back into the minivan and drove toward Lawrenceburg, Indiana where Middletown police say they dumped the young boy’s body into the Ohio River.
Middletown police say Gosney and Hamilton came to report James missing about seven hours later.
Middletown Police Chief David Birk has said Gosney has shown little to no remorse.
Birk says he’s confident James’ body is in the Ohio River because it’s one of the few consistent pieces of information from both Gosney and Hamilton’s stories.
Police also say Gosney did take a polygraph test.
Gosney is charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.
Hamilton is charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
A judge set bond at $1 million for Gosney on Monday, while Hamilton’s bond was set at $100,000.
Both are due back in court next week.
The Butler County Department of Job and Family Services filed a neglect/dependency complaint on March 1 regarding Gosney’s two other children, according to the administrator for Butler County Juvenile Court.
Robert Clevenger says the court granted an emergency order that same day placing both children in the temporary custody of JFS. They were temporarily placed with foster parents, Middletown’s police chief says.
Gosney and Hamilton are under orders not to have contact with the children.
Butler County juvenile court has no records or cases involving the 6-year-old boy, or previous ones involving his two siblings or their mother, beyond court action Monday triggered by Gosney’s arrest before his death, according to court director Rob Clevenger.
Butler County Children Services had no contact with this family prior to the child’s death, according to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office.
Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she was devastated by the boy’s death.
See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click here to report it. Please include title of story.