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Search Continues for Family of Little Mystery Boy

April 27, 1988

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) _ A toddler found wandering in traffic a month ago remained in a state shelter Wednesday while puzzled authorities continued their so-far fruitless search for his relatives.

Their only clue is a conflicting account of a man who says that he is ″Little Kenny’s″ uncle and claims that the boy’s father left a skid row bar last month bound for Washington state on a borrowed motorcycle.

The purported uncle ″doesn’t seem to know very much about the boy,″ Lakeland police detective Miles Watson said Wednesday. ″We want to find the father so we can verify this is not some boy who was kidnapped somewhere else in the country.″

A flood of calls about the boy, who is about 18 months old, has been received by state social workers since a judge allowed the toddler’s photo to be published last week, but investigators can’t locate his family.

The boy was described as slim, with light brownish-blond hair and brown eyes, and was wearing a tropical print shirt when he was found.

″It is so sad,″ said Gwen McKenzie, a child abuse and neglect investigator with the state’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. ″This isn’t something that happens every day.″

She noted The Ledger of Lakeland has been running stories and pictures of the boy, but few hard leads have turned up.

″If there were relatives out there, they would have called,″ she said. ″Either someone knows this boy and is not coming forward or he is not from this area.″

HRS officials have listed the toddler with ″Child Find″ in Tallahassee and the national registry for missing children, in case the child was abducted in another part of the country and parents are searching for him. They have also contacted New Jersey authorities after receiving a tip from a Lakeland shelter where the father may have stayed.

″We haven’t gotten any concrete leads,″ Ms. McKenzie said. ″Most are so vague there is no way to follow up, but we’ve run down several.″

The toddler has been in protective custody since March 25 when he was rescued from traffic. The next day, Michael ″Smokey″ Kwil reported his 18- month-old nephew missing from the same area.

Kwil told Lakeland police the first time he ever saw the boy was on March 23 in a bar. The child was with Kwil’s half brother, David Skaggs, Kwil told police. He described himself as the boy’s uncle but couldn’t tell police for sure whether the boy was Skaggs’ son or stepson or what.

During the night, Skaggs borrowed a motorcycle and left for Washington state, Kwil said.

Kwil has told conflicting stories about what happened to the boy after Skaggs left, but Watson said it appeared the child later wandered away from Kwil’s trailer not far from where he was found in traffic.

A misdemeanor child abuse charge has been filed against Kwil.

It is possible, if responsible relatives are not located, the boy could be cleared by the courts for adoption in about six months.

Meanwhile, Ms. McKenzie said, ″Little Kenny″ is doing fine in shelter care.

″You would not believe how very active he is at the shelter,″ she said. ″He’s not shy at all anymore.″

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