4 days after disappearance of 2 boys, police `mystified'

Volunteers, divers, dogs turn up no clues

`It's like the children dissolved'

March 24, 2006|By DAVE WISCHNOWSKY AND M. DANIEL GIBBARD | DAVE WISCHNOWSKY AND M. DANIEL GIBBARD,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

MILWAUKEE -- Quadrevion "Dre" Henning and Purvis Virginia Parker had spent most of Sunday morning playing outside, but they weren't ready to relax and watch television.

So, a few hours before dark, they got permission from home to head for a northwest Milwaukee playground less than two blocks from their homes.

Their families haven't seen them since.

"It's like the children dissolved," Trevor Henning, Dre's uncle, said yesterday. "They just disappeared."

After searching the area with dogs, divers and 150 volunteers for four days, police say they have no idea what happened to Dre, 12, or Purvis, 11.

Without anything to go on, police are not calling the disappearance an abduction.

"We're just mystified," said spokeswoman Anne Schwartz, who pointed out that it is highly unusual for two unrelated boys to disappear together.

"Typically, that's not a situation you would see in the case of a child abduction," Schwartz said.

Dre and Purvis live just around the corner from each other in a neighborhood of mostly single-story, well-kept frame homes.

Dre and a cousin, 11, live with their grandparents. Purvis lives with his mother, stepfather and three sisters. Neither is the type to go play without telling anyone, let alone run away, relatives said.

"Dre wouldn't run away. He's not that type of kid," said Trevor Henning, an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

The uncle said the Hennings are a military family. Dre's father is in the Army; his grandfather Garry Henning is a veteran; and Dre is a sixth-grader at LaBrew Trooper Military University in Milwaukee.

"He's a disciplined kid, not a troublemaker," Trevor Henning said as Garry Henning showed off a box of academic achievement awards from the school.

Purvis loves to draw and is a fifth-grader at Elm Creative Arts Elementary, a public school that emphasizes art, music and dance.

"He's an excellent little artist and a really nice boy," said Kathleen Schuh-Ries, assistant principal. "We have very heavy hearts, [and] we all hope they find these boys. It's been a very long week."

Although their backgrounds are different, the boys quickly gravitated toward each other last summer when Purvis' family moved into the neighborhood of mostly elderly residents, Garry Henning said.

Sunday morning, the boys played with Dre's cousin. Later, they helped their grandmother unload groceries. After 3 p.m., Dre and Purvis assured Dre's grandfather that they had done their homework and headed for the park without Dre's cousin, who wanted to watch television.

When they did not return, the families called police about 8:30 that night, Schwartz said.

It is unclear whether they made it to the playground at Hampton Elementary School. Police have not found anyone who could say one way or another, Schwartz said.

As the days pass and attention increases, police have been inundated with hundreds of tips, Schwartz said.

Responding to a neighborhood woman's assertion that her son had been told Sunday night that the boys had been forced into an SUV, Schwartz said, "We're receiving any number of tips like that, with people reporting vehicle descriptions. So far, every one has been a dead end."

Yesterday, police expanded their search across the city as purported sightings poured in. Police and volunteers combed a nearby park and a larger forest preserve but turned up nothing.

The FBI has set up a command post in case there was a kidnapping and has supplied a light plane with infrared sensors. That, too, has found nothing.

Tracking dogs were brought in from Illinois. Bill Shreffler, who runs the nonprofit Closure Foundation in West Chicago, brought Merlin, his bloodhound, and the Bannockburn, Ill., Police Department brought a dog.

Last night, more than 100 people gathered at the Henning home for a candlelight prayer vigil.

"This city, this state and this entire country understands what you're going through," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told the crowd. "There's no worse nightmare for a parent than your child not coming home."

Dave Wischnowsky and M. Daniel Gibbard write for the Chicago Tribune.

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