WATCH | Seeking answers: Ellis’ mother plans new search Saturday

The mother of Amir Ellis son follows the group led by Ellis mother, Jessica Ellis, on Saturday. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record

Volunteers will return to a wooded area north of Jessieville this Saturday to continue the search for Amir Ellis, who was reportedly kidnapped on May 17.

Amir Ellis' mother, Jessica Ellis, said she hopes for more than 100 volunteers for the upcoming search.

"I'm hoping for an even better turnout," Jessica Ellis said. "Because a lot of people who wanted to make it last Saturday weren't able to, and they asked me if there's going to be another search because they're able to attend this Saturday. So, I'm hoping it's even bigger, cover a lot more ground."

Volunteers will again meet up at the Jessieville Fellowship Club, 7415 Highway 7 north, and then head out to another search location in the Jessieville area.

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A sizable group gathered on Saturday, including Hot Springs police Detective Brian Branstetter, other HSPD officers, members of the Garland County Sheriff's Office and the Quapaw Nation Emergency Management K9 Search Team from Oklahoma.

Three teen suspects were arrested on May 27 in Fort Smith in connection with the kidnapping of Amir Ellis. Nathaniel Allen Speed, 18, who lists a Centerview Street address, Alexia Tamaara Chambers, 18, who is reportedly homeless, and a juvenile, under the age of 18, whose name is not being released, were each charged with a felony count of kidnapping, punishable by up to life in prison. Speed and Chambers are each being held in the Garland County Detention Center on $1 million bonds.

Last Saturday's search party, consisting of roughly 100 people, signed in at 9 a.m. at the base camp at 7415 Highway 7 north before loading up and driving down the road to the search area.

The convoy of roughly 30-40 cars crossed the county line into Perry County and turned left onto Gladstone Forest Road toward the Bear Creek Horse Camp. The procession drove into the Ouachita National Forest down the dirt road, not quite wide enough for two cars to pass each other, and then onto Gladstone Forest Trail, a rough offshoot that loops around on itself.

The gravel pit is often used for shooting as evidenced by the shotgun shells littered around the site, but Saturday it was used for parking. After a quick dusting on all the cars, the group parked, some parking right on top of each other.

Bones found on Saturday were believed to be those of an animal; however, authorities at the scene declined to comment.

"They found deer bones is what I was told," HSPD Cpl. Jjesus Anaya, the department's public information officer, told the newspaper Saturday evening.

"It does feel good to know that your law enforcement, your detective is actively working and helping you," Jessica Ellis said.

"So, that always just feels good. It gives you a little bit more comfort.

"It's very heartwarming, it's overwhelming almost. To know how many people came out today. So, that's just kind of what makes me feel like this could be my last search. I'm hoping that this is my last search," she said.

Jessica Ellis said she received a "more credible" tip than her previous attempts leading her to the remote location.

Once on the site, the volunteers were organized into three groups to fan out in different directions. A volunteer with medical/search and rescue experience was assigned to each group.

One of the biggest searches put together for Amir Ellis since his disappearance, Jessica Ellis said in a Facebook post prior to the search that she was given "most of the answers we've prayed for." In the post, she called for volunteers to help her "bring my baby home, so he can rest."

Unable to go too far into detail because of the gag order on the case, she said she has reason to believe that when they find her son, he will likely be deceased.

"I have learned of some events and things that have led me to believe that I won't be getting my child back alive," she said. "That has led me to believe that his body is in Jessieville woods somewhere, so that's why I was getting a couple of these locations that were mentioned."

  photo  Jessica Ellis makes preparations with her group before entering nearby woods to search for her missing son. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  A representative of the Quapaw Nation Emergency Management K9 Search Team from Oklahoma briefs the crowd on safety before the search commences Saturday. - Photo by Lance Brownfield of The Sentinel-Record.