PORTLAND, Oregon, July 6, 2010 — -- Even as the family of missing Oregon boy Kyron Horman struggles with his disappearance and allegations of a murder-for-hire plot, experts say unwavering hope that he'll be found alive is a powerful motivator.
Ernie Allen, president of the Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said statistics show most missing children are eventually found.
"We know from the Justice Department data, even in the most serious cases most of the children come home," he said. "You always look at those closest to the child. You rule things out. You rule suspects out."
Right now, the main person of interest in the case seems to be Kyron's stepmother Terri Horman, even though she has not been named as such by police. Over the weekend, news broke that police believe Horman allegedly tried to hire her landscaper to kill her husband, Kyron's father, Kaine Horman.
Sources told the newspaper that police alerted Kaine Horman to the allegation on June 26, which they said is what prompted him to move out of the family home with his 19-month-old daughter and to file for divorce and a restraining order against his wife.
Terri Horman denied the allegation when confronted by detectives, the newspaper reported, and she has not been charged, though the investigation is proceeding, the sources told The Oregonian.
But despite growing suspicion that Terri Horman knows more about Kyron's disappearance than she's letting on, the 7-year-old boy's family is clinging to hope that he will come home to the room that has remained untouched since June 4.
In an overnight statement, the family said they haven't even made Kyron's bed so that it looks like he slept there the night before.
"We remain hopeful because we haven't been given any information by law enforcement to indicate he isn't still alive," the statement read, "and therefore we will always expect that he will come home to us."
Allen said that's exactly the right attitude to have. He pointed out that even children missing for months or years come home, citing the Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard cases. And, he noted, both of those cases were broken by "average citizens" who reported seeing something out of the ordinary.
He urged anyone near the Portland area to stay vigilant and do the same for Kyron.
"We hope that people out there will think what they have seen, what they know… might be a key break to bring Kyron home," he said.
Terri Horman hired prominent Portland criminal defense lawyer Stephen Houze early last week and was seen in his company as she returned home Wednesday night.
Two 911 calls were placed from the home of Kaine and Terri Horman the day police reportedly notified Kaine Horman of the attempted murder for hire plot. The first call was made in the evening lasted 13 minutes, the caller reporting threats of some kind. The second came in just after 11:30 p.m. and was written up only as a "child custody call."
The landscaper allegedly told police that Terri Horman approached him about killing her husband six or seven months before Kyron disappeared, the sources said.
Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton said the investigation is not stalled, and they are still making progress.
"We have the potential to still bring him home," he said.
But it's an investigation that has so far failed to answer a heartbreaking question: What happened to Kyron Horman?
Terri Horman said she last saw him walking to his classroom after the two of them had attended a pre-school science fair together.
The school said he never made it to class, but he was not reported missing until the end of the day, when he did not get off the school bus that was supposed to bring him home.
Kyron's disappearance triggered the biggest search in Oregon history.
"We are not in a position to talk about suspects," Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jason Gates said.
Kyron's biological mother, Desiree Horman, has insisted that her son "is still alive," but she also implied that Terri Horman knows more than she is telling.
"We implore Terri Horman to fully cooperate with the investigators to bring Kyron home," she said Thursday.
That is exactly what Terri Horman has been doing, though, Staton said on Friday.
"To date there has been no indication through our detectives or through our investigators that she's been uncooperative," Staton said at a news conference that was called because of the flood of media questions his office has received about the case.
Meanwhile, people have left cards and balloons at the fence outside Kyron's school, all expressing wishes for his safe return.