Missing toddler's body found in Butler County

Published: Mar. 11, 2020 at 7:37 PM CDT
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Update: Saturday afternoon

The Butler County Sheriff's Office says the body of a 20-month-old girl who had been missing has been recovered.

The girl had been swept away in an accident along the Little Walnut River in Leon, Ks last month.

The Sheriff's Office says at around 9:00 a.m. Saturday, members of the Butler County Sheriff's Office, Butler County EMS, Butler County Rescue Squad, Augusta Fire, and Leon Fire Department met at the Leon Fire Station to coordinate another search for the missing girl.

There were teams using a cadaver dog, people searching on foot and using A TVs. At approximately 10:08 a.m., a search team with the Leon Fire Department located the remains of the 20-month-old. Her body was found approximately 3700 feet down river from the area the vehicle entered the Little Walnut River.

Detectives with the Butler County Sheriff's Office recovered the remains and they were transported to the Regional Forensic Science Centers in Wichita, Ks for an autopsy.

The family of the toddler has been notified.

The name of the child is not being released at this time.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family during this difficult time," the release stated.


Update: Thursday afternoon

The Butler County Sheriff's Office has identified a man pulled from the Walnut River Wednesday night as 44-year-old Christopher Johnson.

A Kansas canine rescue group and three boats were launched Thursday morning to search for the man's two-year-old daughter.

Sheriff Kelly Herzet says around 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Leon police were doing a welfare check on the toddler when Johnson drove his pickup truck into a wooded area near Central and Main Street.

Herzet said officers tried to talk to Johnson and found he had been drinking alcohol and his daughter was not in a seatbelt.

When police said they wanted to talk to the child, Herzet said Johnson drove off and into the Walnut River.

Officers were on foot and got into the River. They worked till 10 pm to get the Johnson out of the water. Recovery crews found Johnson trapped and the back glass window broken out. Police believe the child went out that window.

The search for the girl along the Walnut River will continue throughout the day.


Update: Wednesday evening

Emergency crews say they will resume recovery efforts Thursday morning for a little girl after the truck she was riding in drove off a 30-foot embankment Wednesday evening and into the Walnut River.

Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said it happened during a police chase.

He said around 6:45 p.m., the Leon Police Department made contact with man in a Chevy pickup that they'd been looking for most of the afternoon. Police had been told the man went to the grocery store outside of town and bought alcohol. He also had his two-year-old daughter with him.

Herzet said the child's mother came home from work, called her boyfriend and told him to bring the child home. He told her no. The woman discovered that the man may have been drinking and that's when she called the police.

Herzet said when officers located the pickup in a field by the Walnut River, they thought the man was under the influence but communication remained peaceful.

"When they told him they were going to have to take the child, he started the pickup and drove off," said Herzet.

He said as the truck was exiting the field, the man drove off an embankment and into the Walnut River. The truck landed on its top with the wheels and bottom frame sticking out.

Herzet said it's unknown if the crash was an accident or intentional.

He said emergency crews spent about 90 minutes trying to recover the man and the child from the vehicle. After they being unsuccessful, heavy equipment was brought in to get the truck out of the water.

Crews found the man, but they have yet to locate the little girl.

"The child must've gotten sucked out of the vehicle, so now, we're going to have to start looking down the Walnut River for the child," Herzet said.

He said the Kansas Highway Patrol, Butler County Rescue Squad, Butler County Water Squad, the Augusta Police Department and Butler County EMS will all be on scene Thursday morning searching for the girl.


Butler County crews are working to rescue an adult and child from a vehicle after it went into the water Wednesday evening.

Butler County dispatchers say the crash happened in a retention pond or sewage pond behind Fleming Feed & Grain Co., near Central and Main Street in Leon.

The situation started out as a custody exchange dispute on Main Street in Leon, according to dispatchers. A call was placed to 911 at 6:52 p.m.

Dispatchers tell us an adult and toddler age child are in the vehicle.

No conditions are available on either at this time.