Monday, May 14, 2001

Boy still missing; no ID on body

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SILVERTON — There's a hole in a family where a 9-year-old boy used to be. But 36 hours after the burned body of a child was found in a park shelter in Kennedy Heights — two miles from Diarro Lavon Hayes' Silverton home — police were still uncertain whether it is that of the missing boy.

        Investigators say the body appeared to be that of a 7- or 8-year-old, but Sunday would say only that they were still investigating the possible link to Diarro's disappearance.

        Burn marks could be seen Sunday on the concrete floor of the picnic shelter at the 66-acre Daniel Drake Park, and the men's room walls appeared to be covered with a sootlike substance.

        Outside, the play area was empty, and — in a community park normally well-trafficked on weekends — the only audible sound was the low hum of traffic on Interstate 71.

        Meanwhile, an anguished family on Sunday clung to hope.

        “All they (police) have told us is they're still looking,” Diarro's grandmother, Renee Hayes of South Fairmount, said from the boy's home. “We're still hoping.”

        Diarro was reported missing Friday night, after his mother called the neighborhood friend her son went to visit and learned that he never arrived.

        “He's never run away,” Ms. Hayes said.

        Diarro is a third-grader at Silverton Paideia School. His grandmother said he enjoys video games, karate, wrestling, football and basketball. Earlier this school year, he became enthralled with science and built a robot-type device for his first project.

        A child's body, burned beyond recognition, was found at 8:45 a.m. Saturday. The Hamilton County Coroner's office referred all questions about its autopsy Sunday to the Cincinnati police homicide unit. Homicide detectives handling the case did not return phone calls Sunday.

        Diarro's grandmother said the child had never been to Drake Park: “He only goes to the park with the family, near our house. He's not allowed by himself.”

        “We didn't even know where it was,” she said of Drake Park.

        On weekends, the park usually is filled with people using the children's playgrounds, picnic shelters, walking paths and scenic overlooks.

        But on Sunday, it was virtually empty.

        Diarro is African-American, and about 5 feet tall. He was wearing a light blue T-shirt with “Big Brother” printed on the front, black pants and gray gym shoes.

        Investigators are asking anyone who was in the park Friday night or early Saturday and saw suspicious activity to call CrimeStoppers at 352-3040 or Cincinnati police at 352-3542.

Saturday story

- Boy still missing; no ID on body
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