Authorities are growing increasingly concerned that a Big Bear Lake youngster who has not been seen for more than two months has met with foul play, and are intensifying their plea for public help in the case.
The missing boy, 9-year-old Jack Phillips, was last seen Aug. 6, walking home from the Aspen Glen Picnic Grounds near Big Bear Lake.
"We have interviewed, re-interviewed and re-re-interviewed people," said San Bernardino County Deputy Sheriff Cheryl Huff. The fact that there has been no trace of the boy "tells us that we believe there is possible foul play in his disappearance. This has gone from a missing-child investigation into a criminal investigation."
A 20-square-mile area around the boy's home was scoured by searchers on foot, on horseback and from the air in the days after he disappeared, with no evidence of him, she said.
Neither Jack's mother, Michelle Phillips, nor her boyfriend is considered a suspect in the boy's disappearance, Huff said.
In a statement issued through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which is offering its assistance, Michelle Phillips said, "I have a strong connection with my son. . . . I know he's still alive, and out there wanting to come home."
Jack was last seen attending the "Old Miner's Day" festivities at Big Bear Lake City on Aug. 6, and then heading home later that afternoon from the nearby park where he had gone to play, Huff said.
She said people who may have videotaped the parade are asked to turn their tapes in to investigators to see if Jack can be spotted in the crowd and for possible clues.
"We are hoping to talk to anyone who was at the park that day, or was driving along Highway 18 near the lake that afternoon," Huff said.
People who might have information are asked to call detectives at (800) 722-8939.
The 4-foot, 72-pound boy was last seen wearing a black tank top, gray shorts with a Tasmanian Devil patch on a leg, white tennis shoes and white socks. He wore an earring in his left ear.
Several days after Jack's disappearance, a family friend in Bakersfield thought she detected the boy's voice on the telephone when an automated collect call was placed to her home. But when she accepted the call, there was silence.
The only other person that Jack knows in Bakersfield is his father, who is in prison, Huff said.