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Missing Child Found Dead In Pond

The search for 21-month-old Marcellus Powell ended in tragedy Monday night when emergency and law enforcement personnel found his lifeless body in a pond near his home in the Turbeville area.

During a press conference at the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning, Sheriff Stanley Noblin said a call from a neighbor came in to the 911 Center at 10:15 Monday night reporting that a one-year-old child was missing from the house “across the road.”

Noblin said the caller advised the dispatcher that the child had been gone for approximately 20 minutes. He also confirmed there was no telephone in the child’s Philpott Road home and that the child had been at home with his mother.

Sheriff’s Office personnel, Virginia State Police, Halifax County rescue and fire personnel responded to the location, the sheriff said. Upon arrival, Noblin said they found 40 to 50 citizens searching for the missing toddler. Searchers located the child at 11:07 p.m. in a pond approximately 25 to 30 yards from the house, he said. He added that the child was fully clothed, and his body was found in four to five feet of water only a few yards from the shore of the pond.

Halifax County Emergency Services Coordinator Kirby Saunders said he immediately started CPR on the child, who he described as a 21-month-old black male, after he was recovered from the water. Noblin said the Halifax County Rescue Squad was dispatched at 11:08 p.m. to the scene and arrived at 11:22.

The sheriff said the Virginia State Police Med-Flight helicopter had been dispatched from Lynchburg to assist in the search and was en route to the scene when the child’s body was located. He also said sheriff’s office tracking dogs also had been brought in to assist in the search.

Noblin confirmed that eight law enforcement personnel were on the scene, and Saunders said 15 search and rescue team members and the dive team were on standby if needed. He also said there is no indication the recent flooding had anything to do with this incident.

When the rescue squad arrived, EMS personnel transported the child to the Halifax Regional Hospital Emergency Room where he was pronounced dead “after extensive attempts at resuscitation failed,” according to Dr. Charles Devine, Halifax County medical examiner.

Devine said the cause of death has not been determined, and the child’s body has been taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Richmond for autopsy. He also said the autopsy could take up to several weeks.

Noblin confirmed that his office is conducting an investigation, but he does not believe there was any foul play involved in the child’s death. He also said any charges as a result of the incident would be at the discretion of the commonwealth’s attorney after the investigation is completed.

The sheriff said his investigators would continue interviewing people in the community and check for any other type of evidence they may find, just to make sure nothing happened to the child other than just wandering off from his home.

Saunders verified a debriefing session is being set for all responders as well as hospital personnel who worked throughout the night to attempt resuscitation.
Also participating in Tuesday’s press conference were Olivia Epps, Halifax Regional Hospital public relations manager, and Adam Harrell, Halifax Regional Hospital emergency management coordinator.

“It’s always a tragedy when this sort of thing happens to anyone, but especially with a child,” Noblin said. “But I know I speak for fire and rescue, emergency services and law enforcement, we’re all grieving for the family and for our own members who have to go through this.”