OAKVILLE, Wash. (NewsNation now) – A 5-year-old Washington state girl has been missing since last February after the state ordered that she be returned to her birth parents. These parents are currently behind bars in Montesano.
Jamie Jo Hiles was Oakley Carlson’s adoptive mother. She and her husband Eric had Oakley with them from the age of 7 months until just before her third birthday.
“It was just such a good bond,” Hiles said. “Like the three of us: my husband, myself and Oakley. We were so, I felt like we were such a good family. As if we felt like a nuclear family.
Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Schrader said Oakley’s birth parents, Jordan Bowers and Andrew Carlson, are currently in jail for reckless abandonment of a dependent child and reckless drug endangerment.
Schrader is part of a team of investigators looking for Oakley and what happened to him.
“We first became aware of this in December 2021 when a family friend contacted us and they were concerned,” he said. “They went to the scene several times and hadn’t seen Oakley but saw the other siblings who were there.”
This was after a house fire in November 2021 at the house where Oakley lived with his birth parents and three siblings in Oakville, Washington. That’s when Oakville school principal Jessica Swift noticed something was wrong.
“Jordan had let us know there was a fire, so I had come out to check on them and provide support and drop off supplies from school right after the fire,” Swift said. “I saw all the other kids running around and playing and I didn’t see Oakley and I thought that was a bit strange. I asked where she was and they said she was in his room in dead time.
A few weeks later, Swift visited again, and still no sign of the little girl. It wasn’t until one of Oakley’s siblings, who was a friend of Swift’s daughter, was at the Swift house for a play date that the principal’s concerns spurred her into action. .
“While on a date with my daughter and Oakley’s sister, I asked about Oakley,” Swift said. “And it came out during those questions that Oakley no longer lives with them. I can’t describe the feeling I had at that moment, sitting on that couch with that little girl when she said that. .
The December interaction was when Swift knew it was time to make things worse.
“I immediately contacted the Sheriffs of Grays Harbor and got the ball rolling that way and that’s how it all came to light,” Swift said.
“We processed the house and interviewed the children there, and none of them had seen Oakley,” Schrader said. “We haven’t seen her for a while. Now, they’re young kids, and they can’t answer you directly, but that leads us to believe Oakley wasn’t even there at the time of the fire. And it had been months before that any of the kids had even seen her.
Investigators saw other signs that Oakley was not home.
“We didn’t notice any rooms set up for Oakley downstairs where everyone had rooms set up,” Schrader said.
On top of that, Schrader said he didn’t see any Oakley-owned clothing. The family had moved to a hotel near Tumwater, but they were going back and forth to the house – another red flag, according to Schrader.
“It was in their vehicle that they left the Tumwater Hotel and then drove back to Oakville, with a car seat in it,” Schrader said. “And there was a 2-year-old brother as well as a 6-year-old brother from Oakley who was allegedly in the car at the time. So that’s a clue that something is wrong.
For adoptive mother Jamie Jo Hiles, the revelation Oakley was missing was compounded grief forcing her to relive the day the smiling girl was taken from the safety of her foster home, the last day she took him in. never seen.
“The driver came to pick her up at 10 a.m. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried this hard in my life,” Hiles said. “And of course she’s happy because she can see her sister. So she’s very excited, but she’s also a bit confused.
Hiles said she was angry because it didn’t have to be that way.
“I’m very angry with our social worker and with Washington State,” she said. “Why have I contacted members of the government and haven’t received a response yet? »
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But most of all, she thinks about how it could have been different.
“I think about the abuse that has happened,” she said. “Like hearing police reports that Oakley was starving, or that she was beaten with a belt, or that she was locked in a closet. That’s what I think about before I go to sleep. Because that if Oakley had remained in my custody, this would never have happened to him, ever.
Schrader remains optimistic about the answers to come and hopes Oakley will be found alive.
“I think we will come to some closure on this case. I hope Oakley is found and that she is found alive,” he said. But there are pieces inside of me that think that might not be a reality — just given the investigation.
What sustains the Hiles is that whatever happened to Oakley in the still short half of his life, they showed him what love is.
“I hope when she got scared, when she got locked in a closet or when she was scared of something, I hope she remembered she had us,” Hiles said.