Father of Missing Child Desperate for Safe Return of Girl

Father of Missing Child Desperate for Safe Return of Girl

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The father of a missing toddler refuses to believe the child's grandmother drowned her in the Snake River in Idaho.

Adam Bishop on Thursday urged the public to continue to search for 19-month-old Acacia Patience Bishop.

Bishop said he believes his mother-in-law, Kelley Jean Lodmell, is capable of concocting the story of the child's drowning in order to keep the baby from him and the toddler's mother, Casey Lodmell.

Kelley Lodmell, 38, is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping for Acacia's disappearance. The woman, who has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, reportedly told police that she was trying to kill both herself and her granddaughter in the river.

Lodmell took Acacia from her great-grandparents' Salt Lake County home on May 25. The child is believed to have drowned in the Snake River at Idaho Falls the next afternoon.

An extensive police search of the river has yet to find the child' body.

Acacia's parents have repeatedly said they believe the child is being hidden by someone in Idaho Falls.

"We believe she (Lodmell) has passed her off and created this whole scenario to make us believe that our child is dead and gone," Bishop said. "It is what would make her the happiest. She doesn't think we deserve her."

The family has offered a $10,000 reward for the child's safe return.

Acacia's great-grandparents were baby-sitting while her parents were attending a wedding rehearsal dinner. Lodmell was visiting the home. When the great-grandmother briefly turned her attention away, Lodmell had disappeared with the toddler.

The abduction prompted a nationwide Amber Alert.

Lodmell had not been allowed alone with the child since a year before the abduction, when she hid the baby from her parents for a half-hour, Bishop said.

At that time, the couple had trusted Lodmell to baby-sit Acacia. However, when they arrived at Lodmell's apartment, she told them she would not give the baby back. When Bishop told Lodmell he was going to call the police, the woman led the couple to the child hidden on a lower floor of the apartment building, Bishop said.

It is this history that makes Bishop believe that Lodmell had plotted to steal the baby and make up the story about the drowning.

Lodmell had made several visits to Idaho Falls before the alleged kidnapping, he said. He urged anyone in the town with knowledge of where she had stayed and with who she visited on those earlier trips to contact the police.

Lodmell was arrested a day after the child's disappearance when she ran to a hydropower station on the river, saying the child was in the water. She talked with police for hours following her arrest, although her story reportedly changed several times.

But based on the interviews and other evidence, investigators concluded she had attempted a murder-suicide.

For the three weeks since the abduction, Acacia's parents, who live in Holladay, Utah, have stayed in Idaho Falls, continuing their search.

"We're not leaving here until we have our baby," Bishop said. "We don't believe that this is what's happening here, this scenario she (Lodmell) has brought to light. She's a manipulator. We are still holding onto hope."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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