UPDATE: Search continues for missing Jefferson City boy

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Jefferson City Police Department is making a plea on behalf of missing 4-year-old Darnell Gray.

"The amount of time that Darnell has been missing is beyond critical," Lt. David Williams. "It is imperative that we find Darnell and return him to his family."

He said anyone who knows Darnell's location can contact the department and remain anonymous.

"It is imperative that we find Darnell and return him to his family," Williams said.

A $500 reward was being offered for information on Darnell's whereabouts.

The Jefferson City Police Department asks anyone with information to call 573-634-6400, Crimestoppers at 659-TIPS or visit jeffcitycrimestoppers.com.

Gray was last seen Wednesday between 11 p.m. and midnight when he went to bed. In a news release Saturday, Jefferson City police announced they are expanding their search for Gray after people close to the investigation made inconsistent statements.

Darnell is approximately 3 feet, 10 inches tall, 50 pounds and missing his two front teeth, police said. Police said Darnell is believed to be wearing a black and white sleeper, black coat, red Spider-Man velcro shoes and possibly a Mickey Mouse cap. Darnell's Black Panther backpack is also missing from the home where he was staying, police said. 

The search continued Saturday as nearly 50 volunteers gathered to look for signs of the missing four-year-old. They searched the woods surrounding Washington Park.

Family members of Carl DeBrodie helped organize the volunteers and lead search parties.

DeBrodie, who had a mental disability and limited communication skills, was reported missing from Second Chance Homes in Fulton in April 2017.

Authorities later found his body encased in concrete days after he was reported missing.

DeBrodie's relatives say they're not giving up until Darnell is found.

"We fight and strive everyday," said Rebecca Dell, one of DeBrodie's cousins. "We're here and we're not going anywhere until he's found, so every single day from here till next year we'll be here."

Some of the volunteers searching for Darnell said they personally knew the pain of missing a loved one.

"The trauma of a little boy missing. You know I've got grandkids myself, some the same age as [Darnell] and I couldn't even imagine something like that happening to him," said Michael Morgan, one of DeBrodie's cousins. "We just really need to find this boy and give the family a measure of peace."

(Editor's note: A previous version of this story contained an incorrect last name for the child. It has since been corrected.)