FAITHORN, Mich. (WJMN) — It was a normal evening in Faithorn, Michigan for the Chase family on Wednesday that quickly turned into an extensive search-and-rescue operation for a toddler.
Brooke Chase was home with her son and 2-year-old daughter, Thea. Her husband Alex was at work. Also at the house was Marcus Christy, Alex’s brother-in-law.
“She is her uncle’s shadow and is constantly with him, that’s why it’s such a shock to us that she left his side,” Brooke Chase told Nexstar’s WJMN.
Christy said he had been taking a break from pressure-washing the side of the home when he told Thea to go into the house because it was getting late.
“We thought she went back in the house,” Christy explained. A little while later, Brooke and Christy realized neither knew where Thea was. That’s when the search began.
After their initial search, they noticed she wasn’t the only one missing.
“We were searching all around the yard up and down the road, screaming at the top of our lungs her name, calling for the dogs because the dogs were missing too,” said Brooke.
It was around then that Brooke called Alex at work. “My wife called me, and as soon as I heard her voice, I knew that something was definitely wrong. I didn’t think twice, I just came home.”
Brooke said the search for Thea started around 7:40 p.m., and by 8 p.m. police were mobilizing resources.
“We had a lot of boots on the ground in a very short period of time,” said Jeremy Hauswirth, Iron Mountain Post Commander for Michigan State Police. “We had drones that were on site, police K-9s from several different departments, both state police and county. We had citizen volunteers and search and rescue available.”
Christy and the Chase family said the response from the community was incredible. “This place was flocked with people within half an hour.”
Four long hours later came news of the discovery, not by the drones or the K-9s, but by a family friend on an ATV.
“He went way, way farther than anybody else was searching,” Brooke said. “And [Thea] was way out there. He had said that if it wasn’t for the dogs poking out of the trees, he would not have seen her.”
It was Buddy, the big Rottweiler that the man found first. Brooke says he was lying near a berm a short distance from an ATV trail, roughly three miles from their home. When he stopped to investigate, he found Thea sleeping with her head resting on the family’s other dog, Hartley.
When she was found, Brooke was at the house while Marcus and Alex were leading a search party in another part of the woods.
“As soon as we heard she was found I started running. And I was like I stopped because I was like ‘Oh, I don’t even know where the heck she is.’ You know what I mean? Me and Alex both just started running. And then they said they’re en route back to the house. We started running back to the house.”
Medical staff determined Thea was in good health after she was found.
As far as the police investigation, authorities don’t believe foul play or negligence played any part in the whole ordeal. Commander Hauswirth said sometimes things like this are inevitable.
“I’ve raised four kids of my own, and you can be the best parent on the planet and they have their own minds. They will do things in an instant that will surprise you. Even the best of parents can blink and their child can be gone.”
With Thea in her arms, Brooke said, “She has no idea the amount of stress that she put me through last night, and her father, and everybody else.”
The Chase family says they want to thank everyone involved in the search to find their daughter.