Body of missing toddler found in creek; foul play not suspected

Body of missing toddler found in creek; foul play not suspected



Cheryl Martinis is a journalist. This article was previously published in The Oregonian News on December 17, 2002.

It is published here with the kind consent of the author.





A solid 2-year-old who liked to jump up and down while watching his favorite movie, "Shrek," was found dead Monday in a creek about a half-mile downstream from where he had been on a visit with his foster family.


Travis Adams was found about 9:35 a.m. by a Marion County Search and Rescue dog, ending a search that started when he was discovered missing shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday from a neighborhood off Sunnyside Drive in Southeast Salem.


Travis, his foster parents and the rest of the family had been at the house about 15 minutes when the foster father noticed that the toddler was missing, Salem Police Lt. Bill Kohlmeyer said. The family searched the house and looked outside for about 15 minutes, then called police.


The foster parents, Ron and Beth Teske, live in Northeast Salem. They were visiting his parents, Ronald and Barbara Teske, at their home on

Valleywood Drive
when Travis disappeared.


Walnut Creek, a seasonal stream swelled by recent rains, runs near the house, and the boy could have entered the creek at a number of locations, authorities said. There is no indication of foul play, but the investigation is barely under way, Kohlmeyer said.

"Now the job is figuring out how he got in the creek," Kohlmeyer said shortly after the body was found.


Travis and his 4-year-old sister were placed in the foster home in October, according to their mother, Becky Adams.


Adams, 25, said the state removed her children after she left a rocky marriage and while she was moving from house to house, looking for a place to live. She said she was meeting requirements -- including drug and alcohol treatment programs and a psychological evaluation -- to get her children back. She said she is on a list to receive parenting classes.


"I have a lot of hard feelings toward them, I do," she said of the foster parents. "You just don't let a 2-year-old wander around."

She said she was called to break the news to her 4-year-old daughter, who understood that "Bubba went bye-bye yesterday and nobody could find him."


Adams said she told her daughter that they found him, he died and "he's going up to heaven."


She said she's concerned about her daughter remaining in the foster home. Three other children in state protective custody also are in the house. They are among 7,500 children in Oregon who are in state care because they have been abused or neglected.


Patricia Feeny, a spokeswoman for the state's child protection services, said that although the agency doesn't know exactly what happened Sunday, Travis' sister and the other children would remain with the family.


"It's a really highly regarded home," she said. "They're well thought of by the agency."


Although she didn't refer to the foster parents by name -- a 1999 law prohibits the state from disclosing information about foster parents for safety reasons -- she said the couple have been foster parents for five years and have had 28 children placed in their care.


She said the agency would explore what led up to the tragedy but that it has no reason to think that children remaining in the home are not safe.


"Children that come into our care and custody have been abused or neglected," she said. "We have to think very carefully before we make another disruption in their lives."


She said there was no concern that five children were too many for the couple.


A friend of the foster family, Diana Barnhiser, searched for the boy Monday morning on her own, walking streets along the creek.


"It's a desperate situation," she said before the boy was found. "The little guy's already in a strange world, and now this."


She said her friends are "excellent foster parents" who watch the children like hawks and are devastated by Travis' death.


Becky Adams, who visited her children on Thursdays, said Travis was a big boy, yet solid. In addition to watching "Shrek," he loved to snuggle. She said she didn't even have a good photograph of her son.


Salem police started searching the area about 10 minutes after they were called Sunday. Marion County Search and Rescue arrived shortly before 8 p.m. and, using dogs and a heat-detecting device, searched until about 3 a.m. Monday. At that point, Kohlmeyer said, the search was scaled back to wait for daylight.


Neighbors on Sunday searched their garages and yards, looking under every bush, for the little boy in a sweat shirt and blue jeans. Some took to the streets.


Cheryl Martinis: 503-399-8540; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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