Diving teams spent Wednesday searching for the body of 6-year-old James Hutchinson after a sonar ping at the bottom of the Ohio River.
The multi-agency recovery effort has been plagued since the beginning by the Ohio’s periodic flooding, which forced sudden starts and stops to the search for the murdered boy’s remains. Diving didn't start until March 10, over a week after his death. Divers reentered the water near Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on Wednesday despite a rapid current of two miles per hour — about a mile faster than any they’d normally consider diving into.
“That’s how brave these folks are,” said Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser at the scene of the search. “They are risking their lives to bring this to some conclusion. Not closure, but conclusion.”
Sonar and a cadaver dog both identified the day’s dive spot, he told the Journal-News.
“We have a high degree of probability that a body has been located,” he said. “Now, whether it’s the body, we can’t say.”
If Hutchinson’s body is recovered, it will pass into the custody of Boone County Coroner Missy Rittinger. Evidence unearthed during an autopsy could strengthen Gmoser’s case against Hutchinson’s mother, Brittany Gosney, and her boyfriend, James Hamilton.
Prosecutors believe Hutchinson, 6, was killed Feb. 27 when Gosney attempted to abandon him and his two siblings at Rush Run Wildlife Area in Preble County. She later told police that Hamilton had been pressuring her to get rid of them.
According to police, Gosney left the trio in a parking lot and began to drive away, but Hutchinson attempted to hang on to her car. He was dragged; some police documents indicate he was run over. He died at the scene.
Gosney would tell police she loaded Hutchinson’s body back into the car alongside his living siblings, stored it in her home overnight and dumped it in the Ohio River with Hamilton’s help.
The pair reported him missing on Feb. 28, but discrepancies in their stories led to their arrests.
They were indicted by a Butler County grand jury on 31 combined charges alleging crimes against all three children, including murder, involuntary manslaughter, gross abuse of a corpse and endangering children for Gosney and kidnapping, gross abuse of a corpse, kidnapping and endangering children for Hamilton. They have both pleaded not guilty.
The two surviving children are no longer in the pair's custody.
Dive teams ended their search at 6 p.m. Wednesday without finding Hutchinson or 3-year-old Nylo Lattimore, who authorities said was killed along with his mother, Nyteshia.
"Divers still face difficult conditions on the river. Our efforts will continue as soon as possible," read a release from the Preble County Sheriff's Office.