Fear. Joy. Mystery.
If 11-month-old Durante Cochran could talk, the story of what happened to him Wednesday night might make sense. Right now, it remains a mystery.
The toddler was last seen around 9:00 Wednesday night. His 6-year-old brother Stanley gave him a bottle. "I put the bottle on the table," he told 11Alive News. And then he, his little brother, and their grandmother fell asleep on the couch in the front room of a house on Beecher Street.
When he woke up two hours later, Durante was gone. His bottle was gone. The front door was open.
"I don't know who got him!" a tearful Stanley said.
And the frantic search began. It lasted all night long. Just before 9:00 am, Chris Smith said he was beginning work in the neighborhood when he heard the baby crying. He immediately joined the search for the 11-month-old.
“I was a nervous wreck and I’m still a nervous wreck,” Valarie Victom said. Police said she was staying at an abandoned house nearby and had joined the search for the baby. “I reached out and grabbed him.”
The toddler was in a wooded area near the home. He'd been missing for nearly twelve hours. But, evidence suggests he wasn't there all night.
So, where was he?
The joy at finding the 11-month-old toddler became quickly clouded by confusion.
"It's sort of unbelievable that he would have walked or crawled to that area, a block and a half away," Atlanta Police Major Adam Lee said Thursday afternoon. "We have some theories, but I can't discuss those right now."
Major Lee said search crews, including the Alpha Team Search dogs, found no sign of the toddler during the night. Again, Major Lee said it's hard to believe. "Based on their historic work," he said. "Those dogs are very good at what they do."
Another piece of evidence that's hard to fit into the narrative if the boy just wandered away: the searchers were covered in mosquito bites. Durante didn't have a single one.
There were five adults in the house at the time of his disappearance. His mother was not at home. She was questioned by police and arrested, but not in connection with Durante's disappearance. She had a failure to appear warrant out on previous charges of child neglect. Another adult in the home at the time was also arrested for probation violations.
There were five children in the home. They are all now in state custody. They were living in a home without electricity. A home police called "not in good condition".
Police knew the home well. They'd been there more than 120 times in the past two years. According to call logs, the codes were most often for drunk and disorderly, fights, and rowdy children.
Police were at the home the same day Durante disappeared. They were responding to a call about a drunk and disorderly fight.
"The baby doesn't seem to have any ill effects," Major Lee said. The toddler survived the night. For that, police and neighbors rejoiced. What happened to him remains a mystery now at the center of a police investigation.