Oakville, Washington (NewsNation Now) – A 5-year-old girl from the state of Washington has been missing since February last year after the state ordered her return to her biological parents. These parents are now behind bars in Montesano.
Jamie Joe Hiles was the foster mother of Oakley Carlson. She and her husband Eric had Oakley from the age of 7 months until her third birthday.
“It was such a good connection,” Hiles said. “Like the three of us: my husband, me and Oakley. We were like that, I felt like we were just such a good family. It’s as if we felt like a nuclear family. “
Deputy Sheriff Kevin Schrader said Oakley’s biological parents, Jordan Bowers and Andrew Carlson, are currently in jail on charges of careless abandonment of a dependent child and careless threat of drug use.
Schroeder is part of a team of investigators searching for Oakley and finding out what happened to her.
“We first learned about this in December 2021, when a family friend contacted us and they were concerned,” he said. “They have been to this place several times and have not seen Oakley, but have seen other brothers and sisters who have been there.”
It happened after a house fire in November 2021 in a house where Oakley lived with his biological parents and three siblings in Oakville, Washington. It was then that the school principal at Oakville, Jessica Swift, noticed that something was wrong.
“Jordan told us about the fire, so I went out to check them out and offer support and take the materials out of the school right after the fire,” Swift said. “I saw all the other kids running and playing, and I didn’t see Oakley, and I thought it was a little weird. I asked where she was and I was told she was in her room during the time-out. ”
A few weeks later Swift visited again, and so far there was no sign of the little girl. It was only when one of Oakley’s brothers and sisters, who was a friend of Swift’s daughter, was at Swift’s house on a date that the director’s worries pushed her to action.
“On a date with my daughter and sister Oakley, I asked questions about Oakley,” Swift said. “And from these issues it turned out that Oakley no longer lives with them. I can’t describe the feeling I had when I was sitting on the couch with this little girl when she said that. “
The December interaction took place when Swift knew it was time to aggravate the situation.
“I immediately contacted Sheriff Grace Harbor, and that’s how it all turned out,” Swift said.
“We treated the house and interviewed the children who were in the house, and none of them saw Oakley,” Schroeder said. “It simply came to our notice then. Now they’re little kids and they can’t answer you directly, but that made us assume that Oakley wasn’t even there at the time of the fire. And it was several months before any of the children even saw her. “
Investigators saw other signs that Oakley was not in the house.
“We didn’t notice a single bedroom for Oakley downstairs, where everyone had bedrooms set up,” Schroeder said.
In addition, Schroeder said they had not seen the clothes belonging to Oakley. The family moved to a hotel in nearby Tamwater, but they drove back and forth to the house – another red flag, according to Schrader.
“It was their car in which they left the Tumwater Hotel and then returned to Oakville, there was one car seat in it,” Schroeder said. “And there was a 2-year-old brother and sister, and a 6-year-old brother and sister of Oakley, who were in the car at the time. So here’s a hint that something is wrong. “
For Jamie Joe Hiles ’foster mother, the discovery that Oakley was missing was a major upset that forced her to relive the day the smiling girl was taken from the security of her foster home on the last day she saw her.
“The driver took her away at 10 o’clock. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so 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 kind of confused. “
Hills said she was angry because there was no need to go that way.
“I’m very angry at our social worker and the state of Washington,” she said. “Why did I turn to the people in government and not get an answer yet?”
But mostly she thinks about how it could have been otherwise.
“I’m thinking about the abuse that happened,” she said. “How do you hear reports from the police that Oakley was starving, or that she was beaten with a belt, or that she was locked in an office. This is what I think about at bedtime. Because if Oakley had stayed in my care, it would never have happened to her. “
Schroeder remains optimistic that the answers are there, and hopes Oakley will be found alive.
“I think we will close this case. I hope Oakley is found and she is found alive, ”he said. But there are pieces inside me who think it can’t be a reality – just given the investigation. ”
Hills maintains that no matter what happened to Oakley during half of her still short life, they showed her what love is.
“I hope that when she was scared, when she was locked in an office or when she was afraid of something, I hope she remembered that she has us,” Hills said.