The parents are persons of interest in the case

By Elaine Aradillas
Updated January 29, 2016 11:15 AM
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Credit: Courtesy Help Find DeOrr Kunz/Facebook

Since law enforcement officials began focusing their investigation on the parents of 2-year-old DeOrr Kunz who went missing more than six months ago, the emotional toll it has taken on the family has been overwhelming, says a family member.

“Losing a baby is enough to tear anybody apart,” says 70-year-old DeOrr Kunz, whose son and grandson share the same name. “The browbeating that they’ve been going through with the law enforcement is too much.”

The boy went missing on July 10 in Leadore, Idaho, during a camping trip with his family. His parents realized he was gone after they went exploring, believing that their son was with his maternal great-grandfather who believed he was with his parents.

Lemhi County Sheriff Lynn Bowerman tells PEOPLE that the toddler’s parents Jessica Mitchell and Vernal DeOrr Kunz have been named suspects in the investigation after multiple interviews with the couple.

“They’ve changed their story multiple times,” Bowerman says. He adds that their polygraph tests have also raised concerns about their involvement in DeOrr’s disappearance. “The primary problem is they’re being less than truthful.”

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But Bowerman says they had been “fairly cooperative” before they were named persons of interest in the case earlier this week.

“We don’t have any physical evidence at this time,” Bowerman says. “We found no clothing and no blood.”

As investigators continue searching for the child, though the mountain is now covered in snow, Vernal has hired attorney Allen Browning from Idaho Falls, Idaho. It’s unknown whether the boy’s mother has hired an attorney.

“I think it has been incredibly unfair to [Vernal] DeOrr for people to run around saying there’s inconsistent information in a statement. No charges have been brought,” he says. “I feel very strongly about his innocence.”

Back home, the eldest Kunz supports both parents.

“These kids are innocent,” says the eldest Kunz. “Law enforcement doesn’t give a damn whether they put someone in prison for life that’s innocent, as long as it just goes away.”