Family Was Searching for Kids Pulled From River

PHOTO Portland Police Bureau booking photo of Amanda Jo Stott-Smith.Courtesy Portland Police
Portland Police Bureau booking photo of Amanda Jo Stott-Smith.

When a family in a Portland, Ore., suburb heard the news that a little boy and girl were found floating in the Willamette River Saturday they feared the children might be their missing relatives, police told ABC News.

Screams and moans from the cold Willamette waters led neighbors to call police in the early hours Saturday.

A man who lived in a houseboat nearby said he followed the sounds to the lifeless body of a 4-year-old boy, floating face down, and his 7-year-old sister, still struggling but just barely, and he pulled them from the river.

Although police tried to resuscitate the boy, Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith, he did not survive. The girl, whose identity has not been released, is hospitalized and police said she is expected to survive.

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Police trying to identify the two children looked at a missing persons report filed Friday by the father of a little boy and girl, and after hearing from members of the family, police were able to track down the mother, Portland Police Officer Greg Pashley said.

"The family recognized the possibility that this could be some of their relatives, and the family called to give details," Pashley said.

Seven hours after the children were pulled from the frigid water, police found the mother Amanda Jo Stott-Smith in her car on the top level of a downtown Portland parking garage.

As police walked toward her, she tried to jump off the garage's ninth floor before police pulled her back, Pashley said.

Stott-Smith, 31, was charged this morning with aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder.

Pashley said she had previous problems with police. The couple had other children, who are now in protective custody.

Children's Moans Heard From Both Sides of River

Pashley said calls reporting screams first came in at 1 a.m. from both shores of the river by the Sellwood Bridge.

"The calls kept coming in and when officers got there they heard it too," Pashley said. "They said it was indistinguishable from human scream and from -- who knows what."

Strange Sounds Led Locals to Children in the River

Dave Haag, one of the volunteer searchers who pulled the children from the river, said what he heard from the houseboat where he lives was more chilling than screams.

"It wasn't screaming," Haag told ABC News affiliate KATU in Portland. "It was more like moans, somebody who was exhausted."

Pashley said officers kept hearing the sounds move downstream, but couldn't see who or what was making the sounds.

"It is pitch black if you look out on the river, you can't see anything, you could just hear the screams," he said.

The U.S. Coast guard responded with a helicopter to search the river's waters with lights.

Children Pulled From the Willamette River

Haag and other nearby residents took their boats out on the dark waters trying to locate the source of the sound. Nearly an hour later, at 2:10 in the morning, a resident found the two children floating in the middle of the river.

"What we came up on were two children in the water," Haag told ABC KATU. "One was face down, the other on her back -- flailing, gasping for air. We pulled them out."

Police say 4-year-old Eldon Jay Rebhan Smith was dead when rescuers got him to shore, but his 7-year-old sister survived and is recovering at a Portland-area hospital.

"She's doing well. She's expected to fully recover from the physical part of this," Pashely said. "That little girl potentially owes her life to them [the volunteers] doing that."

An autopsy on the boy determined he died of drowning, KATU reported. Pashley said he did not know if Stott-Smith has given a statement to detectives.

Public records show Stott-Smith has charged with a misdemeanor for throwing "lighted objects" and faced excessive speeding tickets and numerous parking violations.

Police are looking for any more details about what happened on the Sellwood Bridge, specifically any sightings of Stott-Smith's a blue Audi sedan near the bridge Friday night.

They would not say, however, how the children wound up in the river.

"We know the bridge is the source where those children came from," said Det. Sgt. Rich Austria with the Portland Police Bureau. "As far as details to the manner of which those children came off the bridge, we're not going to provide that information at this time."

The Associate Press contributed to this report.