3-Year-Old Va. Girl Is Found Dead in River — and Mom and Her Boyfriend Are Charged

A frantic search for a missing Virginia toddler came to a tragic end when her body was found in a nearby river as her mother and her boyfriend face charges

Josie Burleson
Photo: Wythe County Sheriff's Office

A nearly 6-hour search for a missing 3-year-old Virginia girl came to a tragic end early Wednesday when her body was found in a nearby river, say authorities.

Just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, authorities pulled the lifeless body of Josie Burleson out of the New River in Wythe County, the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The toddler’s mother, Kimberly Dawn Moore, 45, and her boyfriend, Adrian Neil Puckett, also 45, were arrested and charged with felony child neglect with reckless disregard for life and felony child endangerment, the sheriff’s office says.

Kimberly Dawn Moore
Kimberly Dawn Moore, 45, of Virginia. New River Valley Jail

Both tested positive for methamphetamine and may face additional charges, Sheriff Keith Dunagan tells PEOPLE.

“They are both meth users,” he says.

The child’s untimely death is tragic, he says.

“Wythe County is a rural community,” he says. “It’s a close-knit group and this is going to affect a large part of the community.”

The ordeal began on Tuesday at 7:28 p.m. when the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call about a missing 3-year-old child on Rocky Hollow Road, a rental property the family was visiting that’s 150 yards from the New River, the statement says.

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Moore and Puckett, who live on the same street as the rental house, told police that the child was playing outside near the New River Trail and wandered off, the statement says.

Adrian Neil Puckett
Adrian Neil Puckett, 45, of Virginia.

Within minutes of arriving at the home, the sheriff’s office led a massive search for the child.

More than 100 searchers from the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office, the Lead Mines Rescue Squad, Virginia State Police, New River Trail Police, Virginia Conservation Police, the Wytheville Police Department, the Pulaski Fire Department and Black Diamond Search and Rescue looked for the child in nearby fields, trails and in the water.

Nearly six hours later, searchers found the girl’s body in the river.

Moore and Puckett are being held in the Wythe County Jail.

They have not yet entered pleas.

It is unclear whether they have retained attorneys who can speak on their behalf.

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