Body Found in Canal Is Missing Boy

Robert Manwill, 8, vanished July 24; Family has history of violence.

July 30, 2009, 3:13 PM

Aug. 4, 2009— -- A body pulled from a canal south of Boise, Idaho, has been tentatively identified as little Robert Manwill, the 8-year-old boy with an impish grin who disappeared July 24, police said.

Ada County coroner Erwin Sonnenberg released a statement today saying his office was still trying to determine the cause of death. Dental records will be checked to confirm the identification, he said.

"Finding Robert will not be the end, but just the beginning of an entirely new investigation," Boise Police Department Deputy Chief Jim Kerns said. "Our priority remains finding answers for Robert's family and this community."

No Amber Alert was ever issued for Robert, because police initially said they did not have evidence of foul play in his disappearance. But Friday they said their investigation had led them to fear that Robert may have been the "victim of a tragic event."

Kerns asked today for patience as police continue to investigate what happened to the boy.

"We caution those who would speculate, who spread rumors or second-guess what's happening behind the scenes," he said. "Our system of justice demands that we focus on evidence. Our investigative experience tells us that we cannot jump to conclusions. The police investigation into Robert's disappearance continues and is very active."

Someone walking by the New York Canal in Kuna, in Ada County, saw the body of a boy floating in the water and called police, Kerns said Monday after the discovery. One of the first officers on the scene jumped into the water and pulled out the body, he said.

The discovery of the body came after days of intense searching for the boy. Several police agencies spent the weekend digging up the backyard of a home in Ada County that police told ABC News affiliate KIVI-TV in Boise is rented by people who know the boyfriend of Robert's mother.

Evidence Found at Missing Boy's Mother's Home Showed 'Suspicious Circumstances'

Police declined to say what was found to lead them to the backyard, saying only that they were following multiple leads and searching multiple locations looking for the boy.

On Friday, Kerns said that with the help of the FBI they had found evidence they hoped would bring them closer to finding out what happened to the boy.

Kerns said that evidence was discovered in a search Thursday night of the home of the boy's mother, Melissa Scott Jenkins.

KIVI-TV reported that Boise police spent hours at Jenkins' home, towing the family's car and leaving with bags of evidence.

"The evidence we've uncovered shows there are suspicious circumstances regarding Robert's disappearance," Kerns said.

Jenkins is divorced from Robert's father, Charles Manwill. The father has custody of the boy, who was on an overnight visit to his mother when he disappeared.

His parents haven't said much of anything publicly since Robert disappeared. Jenkins has two other children and lives with a boyfriend.

Court documents show that Jenkins and her boyfriend Daniel Ehrlick were taken to court by the state for child support relating to an unnamed child in foster care.

Jenkins is on probation after being charged with felony injury to a child, a charge the Idaho Statesman reported came after she fractured the skull of Robert's infant half-brother, who was removed by the state.

The paper also reported this week that Ehrlick has served time in prison and been convicted of battery and burglary. According to the Statesman, Ehrlick is banned from spending time alone with Robert's half-sister.

Police have kept mum so far on the family's legal troubles and their involvement with the search for Robert.

"The previous family history and the connection to Robert's case, if any, is ... part of the investigation," Boise Police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower told last week.

Robert's aunt, Trisha Burrill has been acting as the family's spokeswoman. She told ABC's Boise affiliate KIVI that the family's troubled history should not be a focus for police or the media.

"We do not know why people think any of this matters," she said.

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