Updated at: 01/11/2013 7:07 PM
By KELLI KENNEDY
(AP) HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Investigators found human remains Friday in the former backyard of a South Florida couple whose baby hasn’t been seen in more than a year.
Calvin Melvin and Britney Sierra were arrested Friday on neglect charges after a child-welfare worker acting on a tip from an abuse hotline went to their new home and found only two of their three known children.
Police said Dontrelle Melvin was 5 months old when he was last seen more than a year ago and his father has given detectives conflicting statements on where he is.
The state Department of Children and Families said Calvin Melvin and Sierra aren’t married and have an on-and-off relationship. Melvin is the father of Dontrelle and one of Sierra’s other children, but not the third.
The agency been involved with the family several times over the past few years, but officials declined to give details. The other two children, whose ages weren’t known, were taken in DCF care this week.
Police say Melvin, 27, told them early this week that Dontrelle was living with his parents nearby but when investigators went to the parents’ home, they said that was untrue. When investigators went back to Melvin’s home, he had disappeared. He went to the police station Thursday to be interviewed and was later arrested. Police said he has changed his story several times, including that the baby was in New Jersey with relatives. Later he said he dropped the child off at a fire station.
Adding to the confusion, detectives said Sierra called police last October and complained she hadn’t seen Dontrelle in a year and that Melvin wouldn’t tell her where the child was. A police officer then called DCF, but police did not launch their own investigation. No reason has been given.
DCF officials said they did not follow up on the call because there was no allegation by the mom of abuse or neglect. The agency does not investigate custody disputes. The agency said "missing child" cases and potential criminal cases remain under the investigative authority of local law enforcement.
"This is an awful and senseless tragedy. We are working very closely with law enforcement to provide information. The investigation continues," DCF spokesman Joe Follick said.
At the couple’s former home Friday, neighbors gathered while detectives and two cadaver dogs worked in the backyard. They focused on one corner as authorities used chainsaws to clear out overgrown brush.
Mahmud Lama, who moved into the small green house with a chain link fence about six months ago, said his Labrador retriever used to spend hours digging in the spot where authorities were digging. He later saw detectives remove a wooden box from the yard and officials carried away the remains on a stretcher.
Neighbors said the couple, who moved just a few blocks away, always argued.
"They fuss and fight all the time," said 46-year-old Sharette Brown, who currently lives next door to Melvin.
She said she’s never seen the baby.
Rosetta Braham, who also lives next door, said she was shopping with Melvin’s grandmother in August when she abruptly brought up the baby.
"She said she had a dream, a guilty feeling that something bad happened to the baby," Braham said.
At one point, Calvin Melvin told neighbors the baby was in New Jersey with relatives, but Brown and Braham said the couple kept changing their stories.
Neighbors gathered at the scene Friday collapsed in sobs when authorities said human remains had been found.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)