Authorities searching for the body of a missing 4-year-old Oklahoma girl have found the remains of a child, but have not yet identified them as Athena Brownfield, who authorities say was beaten to death Christmas night, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday.
“The remains will be transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Oklahoma City for positive identification,” according to an OSBI statement. “This is a active homicide investigation and until the remains are positively identified, the OSBI will not be commenting further.”
An OSBI spokesperson has not returned messages from The Associated Press for comment.
The remains were found near Rush Springs, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the Oklahoma community of Cyril, where Athena Brownfield was reported missing.
The child was allegedly beaten to death and buried by one of her caregivers, Ivon Adams, according to court documents released earlier Tuesday.
A postal carrier discovered the girl’s 5-year-old sister alone on Jan. 10 outside the home where they lived with Adams and his wife, Alysia Adams, in Cyril, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) southwest of Oklahoma City.
Alysia Adams later told investigators that Ivon Adams beat the child at about midnight Dec. 25, according to an affidavit for the arrest of Ivon Adams.
Athena “was not moving and her eyes were barely open” Alysia Adams said, according to the affidavit by OSBI Lt. Brenna Alvarez. Ivon Adams “then laid her on the ground and punched her at least three more times in the chest” and the child “never moved after that.”
The document does not reveal why Ivon Adams was beating the girl.
Ivon Adams left the home with Athena at about 1 a.m. Dec. 26 and later returned, saying he buried her body on land the Adams once owned near Rush Springs, marking the site with “a large broken branch.”
Ivon Adams has been charged with murder and child neglect and Alysia Adams has been charged with two counts of child neglect in the case.
Court documents do not list attorneys who could speak for either of the Adams.
The search for the child turned to a “recovery operation,” the OSBI said Monday.
Ivon Adams, 36, was arrested last week in Arizona on murder and child neglect charges and awaits extradition. Alysia Adams, 31, is jailed in Oklahoma on child neglect charges after also being arrested last week.
Ivon Adams has waived extradition to Oklahoma and remains jailed in Maricopa County, Arizona, pending extradition.
“I want to get there and take care of it,” Adams told a judge during a hearing Friday in Maricopa County court. “I need to get there and fight this.”
Brandon Bryant, who said he and his wife were once neighbors of the Adams, said Tuesday that he had little interaction with the couple, but saw nothing unusual from them.
“Didn’t see anything out of the normal. We talked to Alysia a few times, Ivon never,” Bryant said. “We never went into their house. Alysia came over to our house a few times … we gave her a car seat.”
Bryant, whose children are 5 and 10 years old, said he still considers Cyril, with a population of about 800, a safe place.
“Its a small town. It’s probably one of the few places on earth I would consider leaving my doors unlocked at night … it’s still a good place to live,” Bryant said.
The OSBI has said the girls and the Adams are related. The affidavit said the children’s biological mother had left them with the couple 1 1/2 to 2 years ago, and that the girls called Alysia “mom” or “Aly” and Ivon “dad” or “Uncle Ivon.”
The children’s biological mother and father are cooperating with investigators, according to the OSBI.