Community Searches for; Finds Missing Child

Anna-Kay Hagler

by Melissa Blankenship

The Cochran community and the students at Middle Georgia State University pulled together this past Tuesday to show their true colors as they helped search and eventually find a missing child.

April 4 was a long day for the Hagler family, but their arrival home around 9:15 pm was not to be the end of their long day.  Within minutes of walking in the door, the family was thrown into a panic as they realized their four year old daughter, Anna-Kay, was missing.

In the confusion of coming in and getting ready for bed, little Anna-Kay somehow slipped past the watchful eyes of her parents and simply disappeared.   Her father, James Hagler, remembers that she changed into her pajamas around 9:35, but when mom, Amy Hagler, arrived home about 9:45, the four year old was nowhere to be found.  After a quick and frantic search of the house, the panic set in.  Mrs. Hagler says, “I just screamed for Anna-Kay, then dropped to my knees to pray. That’s all I could do.”

At approximately 9:49 James called 911 and Amy began to frantically call family and friends and even took to Facebook to report Anna-Kay’s disappearance.  Within 15 minutes hundreds of people including family members, friends, and college students had begun to search for the missing child.

Anna-Kay with dad, James Hagler

Many people who didn’t even know the Hagler’s joined the search.   D. J. Gibson stated on Facebook,    “So tonight me and some budd[ies] were just walking around campus when we were approached by some people asking if we had seen a 4yr old little girl who had gone missing, we hadn’t but we started looking immediately.”  Others read Mrs. Hagler’s Facebook post, dropped what they were doing, and jumped in the car.

Officer Tracy Hernandez, Sgt. Jamie Allen, Sgt. Keith Jones, Officer Alan Chandler Heath, Deputy Clint English, and Deputy Patrick Roland all helped in organizing the search for Anna-Kay.  By 10:15 the officers had organized and dispersed groups to search the surrounding area.  According to Mrs. Hagler around 30 to 40 people searched her home, but it wasn’t until two friends, Melanie Fish and Crystal Butts, decided to go room by room searching everything that the little girl was found.

In The Hagler’s bedroom, clothes were laid out on the bed for an upcoming trip, and searchers had thrown blankets and pillows on top of the clothes during the search, inadvertently covering up the sleeping child they were all frantically hunting.  When Mrs. Fish and Mrs. Butts’ room by room search made its way to the Hagler’s bedroom, their thoroughness paid off.  They found Anna-Kay sleeping soundly beneath a pile of clothes on her parents’ bed.

James and Amy Hagler

Mr. Hagler posted a thank you on Facebook, which stated:

“I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who came out to help look for AK tonight. I feel a bit ashamed that she was asleep under a bunch of covers and we didn’t see her but the love that was shown tonight was amazing. A huge thanks to all those that came to help search and those that couldn’t and prayed for her being found safely. A special thanks to the Cochran and MGA PD for your help in searching and to AKs favorite officer Tracy Hernandez for leading things. A huge thanks to all our church family, our friends in the community, and the huge number of college students that came to help as well. I would say there had to be well over 100 people who came out to help search and to see how this community can come together was fantastic. Thank you again to everyone who came out to help and the calls, texts, and prayers that came in as well. And the best part was she is safe and sound at home. A sincere thank you from our entire family!”

His sentiments were echoed by his wife who posted, “I am in awe in how many people came this late at night to search for our little girl. This community is love. And I love you all.”

The large number of officials, family, friends, and even strangers who came so quickly to help this family in need was awe-inspiring.  Anna-Kay might not remember much of what happened last Tuesday night, but all who took part walked away with the knowledge that Cochran is a small community with a huge heart.

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