4-year-old Darnell Gray found dead in Jefferson City

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JEFFERSON CITY - The investigation into the cause of 4-year-old Darnell Gray's death continues after the search for him reached a tragic end.

He was found on Tuesday around noon in Jefferson City, in an area that had been identified but not previously searched, according to Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams.

“Foul play was not suspected until we found Darnell’s body,” Williams said.

He said the way Darnell died was "not of his own accord," but did not announce a cause of death.

Mourners gathered Tuesday evening at Washington Park, holding hands and offering prayers for Gray.

Community pastors took turns sharing words to uplift the community at the vigil.

Non-profit organization Missouri Missing put the vigil together after hearing the news of Darnell's death and announced it on Facebook two hours ahead of time. 

"We heard the sad news and we need to honor him," Missouri Missing co-founder Marianne Asher-Chapman said. "And the support from this community is just incredible." 

Asher-Chapman started Missouri Missing after her daughter went missing almost 15 years ago. She said the way Darnell was found was unfortunate but it is a good thing he was found for the family's closure. 

"My heart is just broken for this baby, but he got a lot of love here tonight--a lot of love," Asher-Chapman said. 

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin tweeted, "Beyond sad that our community has lost a precious little boy Darnell who is now a sweet Angel. Prayers.

One volunteer, Marie Schoults, attended the vigil and said during the week she and her own children joined the search for Darnell.

"You hear about it other towns and you just don't think that's it's going to happen in your town," said Schoults.

She said she can't imagine what the family is going through after hearing the news about Darnell.

"It's hard knowing that a four-year-old boy is gone before his life began. That is hard to take," said Schoults.

Darnell had been reported missing since last Thursday morning, and his caregiver said she last saw him Wednesday between 11 p.m. and midnight.

Williams thanked those involved in the search, which included the FBI, multiple police departments, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, fire departments, emergency services and volunteers.

No arrests have currently been made in connection with the death investigation, but Williams did say that “at this point, there is no one that we are not looking at through our process.”

Williams said he notified Darnell’s mother himself, and that other family members of Darnell’s were upset by the boy's death.

“If they were not upset,” Williams said, “then they need to look at themselves in the mirror.”

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