Mother of missing toddler: 'Any answers are better than what we have now'

IDAHO FALLS - Two years after toddler DeOrr Kunz Jr. disappeared without a trace during a family camping trip, investigators appear no closer to finding out what happened to him.

Multiple searches of the Timber Creek Campground outside of Leadore have turned up little evidence in the then 2-year-old's disappearance.

On Monday, just days after another search of the vast area surrounding the campsite, family and community members gathered at an Idaho Falls park to hold a vigil in DeOrr's honor.

MORE: DeOrr Kunz's family still searching, two years later

After the vigil, the boy's mother, grandmother and great-grandfather sat down for interviews with KTVB reporter Morgan Boydston. Each spoke about their love of DeOrr, how much he is missed, and their theories on what may have happened to him.

Jessica Mitchell says she believes her son is still alive, but admits that she is losing hope that he will ever be returned home.

"At this point I have kind of accepted that I might not see him, I might not bring him home like I want to," she said. "Any answers are better than what we have now.

"If he is gone from us I want to have those answers and be able to have that closure, have a funeral, if that is what it comes to," she added. "I just want to know what happened and go from there."

Mitchell said the last two years have been extremely difficult, but support from family and friends has helped to get her through it.

"You see people gather like they do, it's overwhelming because I can't tell those people how much it means," she said. "You don't feel like you have that support and then you see people in a big bunch like that and you really see it."

Still, after two years and very few answers, Mitchell says it's impossible to move on. She and DeOrr's father, Vernal DeOrr Kunz, were both named suspects in the case by the former Lemhi County sheriff, Lynn Bowerman, but no arrests have been made and no charges have ever been filed.

Mitchell maintains her innocence, saying she has no idea what happened to her son.

"I'm lost. We have no answers, no leads, no direction to go in, still two years later," she said. "I'm gonna fight until my last day if that's what it takes. I'm gonna leave this world knowing what happened to him, or bring him home."

WATCH: Full interview with Jessica Mitchell

Like her daughter, Mitchell's mother believes that someone abducted DeOrr. Trina Clegg has been to the campground to search a number of times - including last weekend - but has never found anything to indicate that the boy was attacked by an animal.

"Every time I leave there and there is still nothing, it just goes back to I think someone has him," she said, adding that she thinks one day they will find out what happened to DeOrr.

"I have said it for so long: In time everything will come around, in time we will all understand," Clegg said.

Clegg has spearheaded the family's efforts to find DeOrr, and has been distributing business cards and flyers showing age-progression photos of what the child would look like today.

She said the most difficult part of not knowing what happened is the lack of closure.

"In my opinion he could be anywhere," she said. "We just want you to care about baby DeOrr. We want you at night to say your prayers for baby DeOrr. We want you to wake up in the morning and hope that he's there."

WATCH: Full interview with Trina Clegg

DeOrr's great-grandfather, Richard Jimenez, was not at the campsite when DeOrr disappeared, but he was among the first to respond to help with the search effort.

Jimenez tells KTVB that he believes DeOrr is buried somewhere on the mountain.

"I just pray to God that whoever did something sooner or later comes up and says something so the boy can get a decent funeral," he said. "Because my personal feeling is that he's buried up [on the mountain]."

Jimenez said it was important for the family to gather on Monday to remember and pray for DeOrr.

"We want to be here to help in the prayer, to help find little man and a burn a candle for him and wish him our best," he said.

Jimenez has fond memories of his great-grandson, who he last saw at a barbeque just four days before the toddler disappeared. He says the family is holding on tight to the memories of the happy-go-lucky child.

"We've got a green ball that Brenda won't let nobody play with because it was [DeOrr's]," he explained. "We've got toys still sitting in the same spot where he left them in the house, because he played with them."

"He would come over and visit with me, and climb up on my lap, and get all the little toys and line 'em up on my leg," he added.

Jimenez also had choice words on how the investigation has been conducted, saying that former Lemhi County Sheriff Lynn Bowerman handled the search and follow-up investigation poorly.

"The investigation and the search was very poorly conducted," he said. "The sheriff that was in there before was no good. He allowed 100-150 people to come right into the campsite where the little boy disappeared... so it's a wonder the cadaver dogs could pick up on anything."

RELATED: Lemhi County sheriff: DeOrr's case 'has to be a homicide'

He added that when Bowerman announced that he believed DeOrr was the victim of homicide, and that the boy's parents were persons of interest, it affected the support the family had been getting.

"When the first original sheriff stated that the mother and the father were a suspect, that turned this community against them."

WATCH: Full interview with Richard Jimenez

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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