Ground, water searches called off for missing mom, son

Ground, water searches called off for missing mom, son
Sheriff's deputies search the water near where the van was found.
SEATTLE - Ground and water searches have been called off for the woman who abandoned a van on a remote Puget Sound beach over the weekend and disappeared with her 8-year-old son.

Detectives have failed to turn up any solid leads in the disappearance of Shantina "Kat" Smiley, 29, of Silverdale, and her son Azriel Carver. They're still working on the case, but have given up the search and rescue operation for now, said Lt. Chris Mealy of the Thurston County Sheriff's office.

"We're working on a bunch of different theories. We really haven't closed any possibilities yet," Mealy said. "We're not leaning toward one theory or another right now."

It's still possible the woman and her son went into the water of Puget Sound, but if they did, Mealy said, they could be anywhere in the region because of the ferocity of the current.

"We will find her," he said. "I hope we find her alive and well."

Tuesday, Smiley's fiancé told KOMO News Smiley had a drinking problem and relapsed last week. However, Robb Simmons doesn't believe Kat would do anything to endanger her son.

"To think that she would be drinking on the road with her son, that's an insane idea. I don't believe that would happen," he said.

And the missing boy's aunt agrees. Dana Carver suspects 29-year-old Smiley fell victim to an unfortunate series of events.

"I think she was just being a silly, stupid woman who trusted the wrong people. And (she) was in a bit of a jam and it was getting dark, and probably took kindness from the wrong stranger.

"Well, heck, she knocked on a stranger's door. Who in their right mind does that? Knocks on a stranger's door to use their phone? I just think she was scared and had no idea," said Carver.

Mealy said Wednesday that Thurston County detectives were aware of Smiley's emotional state and her problems with alcohol. He said Simmons is not a suspect.

Meanwhile, the boy's father has arrived in Washington to look for them.

Jay Carver arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from New York late Tuesday and said he planned to rent a car and drive to Olympia, where his former partner and their son were last seen Saturday night.

Carver said he's frazzled and wants to get out in the woods and start looking for Smiley and their son.

"I'm going to look around, and probably spend a lot of time looking in the woods. I know there's been a lot of people looking already," he said. "I'm going to see what they've already unturned and uncovered, and possibly, hopefully, maybe find him."

Jay Carver said he felt "very helpless" just hearing updates of the investigation while in Buffalo.

"You know, like there's nothing I could do," he said. "I'm here, and I'm just hoping it's not too late."

Smiley and her son were headed to her stepfather's home when they disappeared over the weekend. The van Smiley drove was found Sunday abandoned and partially submerged in water on a remote Puget Sound beach.

"It's almost like she vanished out of thin air," said stepsister Chelsie Woodard, 32, of Castle Rock, whose father used to be married to Smiley's mother.

Investigators were taking another look at the van now that it has dried out. And the sheriff's office sent someone to Kitsap County to continue the investigation near Smiley's home.

Friends and family are befuddled, and authorities said the case baffles them, as well.

Thurston County Sheriff's Lt. Chris Mealy said Tuesday that investigators don't know anything more than what they knew Sunday.

Investigators continued to talk to people who know Smiley or her son and those who may have met her as she drove through the back roads of Washington state on Saturday night.

Her stepsister said everyone in the family thinks something different about what happened to Smiley, because so little information about her disappearance has surfaced.

Woodard was looking forward to Smiley's arrival with her son, Azriel Carver, around 7:30 or 8 p.m. Saturday evening. They were going to spend the night at her house and get more thoroughly re-acquainted after a few years of being out of touch while they lived in different parts of the country.

But Smiley and Azriel never showed up.

Carie Tonovitz, of Silverdale, said in an e-mail Tuesday that Smiley was a good mom who was very wrapped up in her son's life. Tonovitz, Smiley and her fiance are den leaders of their sons' Cub Scout group.

"Kat and Robb are cute to see together, great parents, good people," Tonovitz wrote. "Kat and Robb are very involved in Scouts, Kat going so far as to sleep on the gym floor a couple of weeks ago with the Cub Scouts. I snuck home because I was unwilling to do that."

Family and friends are depending on Simmons to keep them informed about the investigation, Woodard said.

Simmons and Mealy both said they don't have much information to share.

"I'm trying to be optimistic. I'm trying to be hopeful," Simmons told KOMO Radio on Tuesday. "I just want to hear that she's safe."

Woodard described her younger stepsister as smart, nice and happy.

"She likes to do family things and outdoor type things just like anybody in Washington state," Woodard said. "There's nothing out of the ordinary about her."

She said Simmons also seems like a really nice guy and that they seem to get along well. Woodard called her nephew outgoing and energetic.

They're part of a large family that homesteaded near the Toutle River and other sites in south-central Washington. Smiley went to high school in Castle Rock and now works in medical billing, as well as doing some part-time photography work.