'Baby Dwight' investigation stalls out

The search for Dwight Stallings, the Sacramento child last seen 18 months ago, has hit a dead end with no new leads and some county officials now refusing to discuss the case.

"Baby Dwight," who disappeared around April 2011 at the age of 11 months, is still the subject of regular hearings ordered by Sacramento Juvenile Court Judge Jerilyn L. Borack in hopes of keeping attention focused on the missing boy. But other officials have stopped talking about the case and question the need for continued updates to the court, Borack was told Tuesday in a dependency court hearing.

"Your honor, law enforcement has essentially clammed up," Deputy County Counsel Michelle Ben-Hur told Borack in the latest in a series of hearings on what progress is being made in finding the child.

Ben-Hur, representing the county's Child Protective Services agency, said that Nikkita Moorer, the CPS emergency response social worker assigned to the case, has made no headway with sheriff's officials in the investigation.

"Her last contact with law enforcement is, there are no leads," Ben-Hur told the judge.

Ben-Hur added that her queries to Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully's office about the case have elicited questions about why hearings still are being held into the fate of the missing child.

Borack, who agreed to open the normally closed dependency hearings to The Bee because of public interest in the case, indicated that she did not care whether the DA's Office believed any further hearings should be held.

"The DA's opinion is of no more value to me than anyone else's outside of the system," the judge said, adding later, "Certainly, the facts of this case would indicate that this is a child who could be at risk."

Baby Dwight essentially was at risk from the day he was born, May 19, 2010. He came to the attention of CPS immediately, when his mother, Tanisha Edwards, a 36-year-old high school dropout, tested positive for methamphetamine.

Her troubles with drugs continued up to the last time Baby Dwight was seen alive – April 2011 – when Edwards tested positive for methamphetamine again.

Despite her failure to comply with a court order for her to produce the child, Edwards apparently remained in the Sacramento area until March 2012, when she was arrested on an outstanding warrant and became the focus of law enforcement efforts to figure out what happened to her son.

The mother of three has spun a bizarre series of stories, telling Borack at one point that she gave the baby away in a Nevada motel parking lot. She also told a fellow bar patron that he had died, according to court documents.

For a time, law enforcement made concerted efforts to find Baby Dwight that included interviews with relatives, searches with a cadaver dog and attempts to get Edwards to talk.

The woman has steadfastly declined to discuss the boy's whereabouts, even refusing to appear in Borack's court.

The DA's Office succeeded in August in winning a three-year prison sentence for her stemming from a probation violation in a 2008 felony case that involved her illegal purchase of 500 rounds of ammunition. Her violations included drug use, skipping her Juvenile Court appearances and failing to notify authorities of address changes.

The district attorney and sheriff's detectives both told The Bee in September that they would no longer discuss the case or whether Edwards would ever face charges in the disappearance of her child.

But after Tuesday's hearings, Scully's office responded to a Bee request for comment with a statement saying it is working with sheriff's officials on a "possible criminal case" involving the missing boy.

"The District Attorney's Office is aware that the purpose of the juvenile court dependency hearings is to update the court on progress in locating Baby Dwight or determining whether he is deceased, as part of the juvenile court's responsibility to ensure proper care for the child," Scully's office said. "We realize that as long as Baby Dwight's fate is unknown, these hearings may continue indefinitely."

The statement added that it would be "inappropriate to discuss the details" of the investigation.

Ben-Hur told Borack that there appears to be little progress that can be made. "There's really very little that we can do at this point," she said.

But Borack indicated she is not willing to give up, and scheduled another hearing on what efforts are being made for Jan. 8, roughly 20 months after Baby Dwight was last seen alive.