Jefferson Parish sheriff’s investigators, joined by members of an FBI task force, continued Monday what has become a frustrating search for 6-year-old Ahlittia North, the Harvey girl who disappeared without a trace from her mother’s apartment sometime late Friday or early Saturday.
All they had was a potential “person of interest” in the case.
While he is not a suspect, officials said they were searching for 20-year-old Matthew Flugence because he has an outstanding warrant for a sexual battery against an 11-year-old girl from Harvey and hasn’t been located by authorities.
“We’re still hoping for that one clue, that one tip ... that will lead us to a suspect,” said Col. John Fortunato, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
It remained unclear on Monday whether Ahlittia left her home on her own or if she might have been kidnapped.
Ahlittia was last seen inside of her apartment, tucked into bed about 11 p.m. Friday. Her stepfather discovered her missing about 9 a.m. Saturday. Also gone was a blanket, her toothbrush and toothpaste.
The apartment’s door was unlocked, and there was no sign of forced entry, investigators have said.
Lisa North, Ahlittia’s mother, said she wasn’t sure what to think about her daughter’s disappearance.
“Why would somebody take my child?” she told WWL-TV. “I don’t understand.”
If she left her home on her own, Fortunato said, there is concern that Ahlittia might have encountered any number of registered sex offenders who live in her neighborhood.
Detectives spoke with 15 sex offenders in the North family’s neighborhood, but have not been able to locate Flugence, which led them to name him a person of interest, Fortunato said.
“We’re not ruling out foul play,” Fortunato said, noting that investigators have gone so far as to search through trash. The lack of any leads in the case has been frustrating, he said.
Fortunato said an “extensive” forensic investigation of the apartment unit in the 2900 block of Destrehan Avenue turned up no useful information for detectives. Alittia’s mother, father and stepfather have passed polygraph tests.
Investigators during the weekend searched a 4-to-5-square-mile wooded area across the street from the girl’s home, but didn’t turn up anything useful.
Authorities were expanding their search Monday night to other parts of the Woodmere neighborhood on the West Bank, with JPSO and federal law enforcement heading into the area for door-to-door searches just after 6 p.m.
“We’re all over the map with this investigation,” Fortunato said.
Meanwhile, Crimestoppers increased the reward offered in the case.
Anyone who provides information leading to Ahlittia’s return can collect $1,000; anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and indictment is eligible for $4,000, which includes money from Jefferson Parish Councilmen Ricky Templet, Mark Spears Jr. and Councilman-at-large Chris Roberts.
Ahlittia was last seen wearing a gray tank top, pajama bottoms and white sandals. She is 4-feet-5-inches tall and weighs 60 pounds.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigations Bureau at (504) 364-5300 or Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.