Reported By Joseph Pleasant, Reporter - bio | email
A helicopter searched the family's Bedford County property Wednesday.
UNIONVILLE, Tenn. -
Two children presumed dead in a house fire Sunday night in Bedford County are now considered missing after investigators said they can't say they perished in the blaze.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday issued an endangered child alert for nine-year-old Chloie Leverette and seven-year-old Gage Daniel.
"They feel like they don't have solid evidence right now to assume these children were in the fire," TBI spokesperson Kristin Helm said, in reference to information she received from state Bomb and Arson investigators.
"It's not to say that they weren't [in the fire], they may have been and further investigation may find that they were," Helm continued. "To err on the side of caution, as far as law enforcement is concerned, we feel like we can leave no stone unturned and follow every lead that we can to ensure they're not somewhere else."
Helm told Nashville's News 2 a neighbor last saw the children around 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Investigators have determined Chloie was in school Friday, but her brother, Gage, was not.
The children had lived with their grandparents, 72-year-old Leon McClaran Sr. and 70-year-old Molly McClaran, at their home located at 730 Kingdom Road in Unionville, about 45 miles southeast of Nashville, for the last five years.
The home was destroyed by a fire that broke out around 9:30 p.m. Sunday. The grandparents' bodies were recovered on Monday, but investigators were unable to find evidence the children died in the fire.
For about an hour Wednesday, a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter circled the family's property and cadaver dogs also searched nearby.
Helm said nothing was found.
Officials from the Department of Children's Services told Nashville's News 2 the children's mother and Gage's father had previously been investigated by the department between 2006 and 2010.
The department, however, would not say why the pair was investigated and that the children were been taken or placed in DCS custody.
Helm told Nashville's News 2 they were asked by the district attorney Wednesday morning to open an investigation into the McClaran's deaths and into the whereabouts of the two children.
TBI is awaiting autopsy results on the McClarans to determine the cause of death.
Leon McClaran's sister, Mary Lamb, told Nashville's News 2 earlier in the day Wednesday their family is in shock.
"You wonder what happened, but you grieve, you grieve," said Lamb, "They found the two and you grieve, but you grieve for those two children. They have not found."
Lamb added, "If we just had ashes, their little bodies, you know, but we don't have anything. We will wait and pray."
Helm said, "Their mother has been spoken to, she does not have the children. There [are] other family members that we are looking to speak with today and we're going to speaking with her again as well."
Officials planned to continue sifting through the rubble at the home overnight Wednesday.
"I mean I hope they are alive, but I don't see how that could happen. I really don't," a neighbor said.
The cause of the fire was not immediately released.
Anyone with information on Chloie's and Gage's whereabouts is urged to call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.