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Friday, August 14, 2009

Caretaker of Hasanni Campbell, missing since Monday, August 10, 2009, will take polygraph test

By Ben Aguirre Jr. and Sean Maher
Bay Area News Group

The search for a missing boy with cerebral palsy continued in Fremont on Wednesday, where search and rescue teams combed a park and the surrounding area.

Louis Ross, foster father and Jennifer Campbell, aunt and foster mother for Hasanni Campbell, who wears braces on his legs and has trouble getting around, say he was last seen in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland on Monday. Police searched their Fremont home Tuesday.

Well-known civil rights attorney John Burris said Wednesday that one of the caretakers (his foster father) will take a polygraph test, while the other will not because she is six months pregnant.

Burris said he has given advice to the couple, Jennifer Campbell and Louis Ross, but has not been retained as their personal attorney.

"I let them know what legal rights they have, advising to help them understand what their rights are, and more importantly, encouraged them to be cooperative with the police, and to understand the job of the police," Burris said.

"It might appear to be rough, but at the end of the day, the police are trying to find the kid. Until they rule the family out, they're going to be subjects of investigation, because they have to be."
Burris' comments came a few hours after Fremont police and Alameda County search and rescue teams combed the Fremont park. Police said nothing of significance turned up during the search, which began about 8 a.m. and concluded before noon.

Fremont police Sgt. Daniel O'Connell nothing in particular led them to the park, less than a mile from the Ardenwood neighborhood where Hasanni lives with Ross and Campbell.

"This is his neighborhood, so we're doing the search," the sergeant said. Three men living in different homes on Roxie Terrance in Fremont — the same street where Ross and Campbell live — said they don't recall ever seeing the boy. "I've never seen him," said Pavan Muppidi, a father of young children who has lived on the street for seven years.

Ross and Campbell have been caring for Hasanni since December because the boy's biological mother, who lives in San Francisco, has drug and health problems, authorities said. The boy's sister also was staying with Ross and Campbell until earlier this week when authorities took the infant into protective custody as police investigate the case.

The couple was said to be in the process of obtaining legal custody of the two.

Oakland police Wednesday said they plan to go back into the Rockridge neighborhood to try and contact residents and others nearby whom police were unable to interview in previous searches.
Ross, the child's foster father, said he left Hasani outside his newer-model BMW in the back parking lot of Shuz, a shoe store in the 6000 block of College Avenue, about 4:15 p.m. He was there to drop the boy's 1-year-old sister off with Campbell, his fiance and the boy's aunt and foster mother, police said. Campbell manages the store.

When Ross returned, the boy was gone, police said. Authorities confiscated the BMW for evidence .

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has also joined the search. The center has experience dealing with thousands of missing child cases.

"They're here to advise us, make sure we're covering all the bases and not missing anything," Oakland police Lt. Sharon Williams said.

Hasanni is described as a light-skinned African-American, with short black hair and brown eyes. He is 3 feet tall and weighs about 40 pounds. He was wearing a gray sweatshirt and gray sweatpants. Anyone with information can call police at 510-238-3641 or 9-1-1.

NG: ...As we go to air, we confirm the last person to see little Hasanni before he disappears takes a polygraph. His foster dad with us live...

NG: Mr. Ross, I understand that you volunteered to take a polygraph.

ROSS: Yes, I did. We have nothing to hide. And basically, it was just -- this has been a traumatic experience but we understood that the police have a job to do, and that -- part of that job is really on everybody so polygraph was basically a normal process.

NG: Mr. Ross, I really admire that. Mr. Ross, explain to me in the moments that we have left, everyone wants to know, you left the boy in the car. But now that I understand what you`re telling us, it`s much more innocent than it sounds.

ROSS: Yes. And that`s part of our frustration. I mean outside of our son being missing, the information that`s being put through the media, the majority of it is incorrect. Let`s begin with where my son was when I left. This is a routine that we have had for the past four to five months, because actually I`m in a class from 6:00 to 9:30 on those nights, and there is a time window where we needed someone to watch the kids. I would be in class, and Jennifer would be at work. Their aunt. So I would drop the kids off at the store, and they would stay in the back room and play with each other until she got off work, and they would all come home together, and I would see them at 9:30, 10:00 at night when I got home from class. As normal routine, I would pull into the back park -- there`s a little small parking lot behind the store that accommodates about two to four cars. I would pull into that parking spot, then proceed to basically get out of my side, walk around, open up the door for Hasanni. And because that was normal routine, Hasanni is not as physically disabled as has been portrayed in the media. Number one, he does not wear silver leg braces that`s been thrown out there in the media, which is kind of disconcerting, because to me, that was a discriminator. If I`m scanning, looking for a child and you tell me he`s missing and he`s wearing silver leg braces on the outside of his clothes, that`s what I`m looking at. We were extremely frustrated to say that that story got out. And it was.

NG: Right. Aren`t they small, white braces on his ankles?

ROSS: Yes. And you...Don`t need to wait for you to see them as if you actually -- he was wearing shorts.


ROSS: And even then you would actually have to look down in his spleen.(?)

NG: So you open the door, and you`re in this back parking lot, and then what happened?

ROSS: I opened up his car door. While I open up the door, he`s has already taken off his seatbelt from his car seat.

NG: Right.

ROSS: And he`s standing up, waiting to get out. As I walk around to hit the side with his sister, I say Hasanni, go stand by the back door. He`s done this a couple of times before. I grab his sister, who`s 19 months, and I take her with me.

NG: Right.

ROSS: Before leaving the car, I pop the trunk of the car and open the trunk and I shut the door. So at this time, his door is open, and the trunk of my car is open. And then I proceed to the front of the store. At the front of the store, I don`t walk inside. I`m still on the sidewalk. I see their aunt. She knows why I`m there. I tell her, open up the back door.


ROSS: She turns to walk to the back to open up the door. I then circle back, the same way I came, right around the corner, to basically hand over Alia. By the time I got there, Jennifer is already out of the store, walking toward me, asking where is Hasanni, and I say, what do you mean, where is Hasanni, and I look around to the side, and he is no longer there.

NG: ...been the subject of intense, intense scrutiny being the last one with the little boy. His explanation is perfectly crystal-clear...

Now, I wonder what was perfectly crystal-clear to her. This just gives me a whole new set of questions. Just because he took a polygraph and thinks he passed it means nothing, really. Misty Croslin-Cummings thinks she is not a suspect, too.

1. Why didn't he pull up in front and take the kids in?

2. Why didn't he just knock on the back door to be let in?

3. Wouldn't Jennifer have been expecting them?

4. Why didn't he just take Hasanni with him as well as Alia? He says he could walk.

5. Why did he pop the trunk?

6. Why did he leave Hasanni's door open, if Hasanni had gotten out of the car by himself and was waiting by the door?

7. When was the last time Hasanni was seen by someone other than Mr Ross? By whom?

Additional coverage:


Anonymous said...

1. There is virtually NO parking anywhere 5 blocks in either direction on College Avenue around that time of day. The store is just short of Harwood Avenue, and so this "back parking lot" is really about a car length back on the closest side street. Parking where he did makes the most sense. Parking on the street would have meant walking really far with a disabled boy and an infant (and any baby bag, etc.).

2. College Avenue is also loud and the stores are bustling. I doubt a clerk would have heard such a knock.

3. It sounds like she WAS expecting them, enough to come out to the front of the store. However, it sounds like he usually went into the store to get her or open the back door. It sounds like one of those moments you both happen to move at the same time towards each other.

4. I'm assuming he had his hands full. Watching friends who have kids that age, it's much easier to take one child at a time than to attempt to carry one with a single arm while you hold the other's hand (especially if the other one has walking problems).

5. To get the baby stuff I assume.

6. I see this as an attempt to speed things up, due to running late, or simply the routine. Kids unbuckle their own seatbelts in carseats for the same reason--they know the routine and anticipate it. I assume his desire to not leave his child in the car for too long led him to think it would be okay to leave his trunk open (possibly exposing other belongings for theft) and his child's door open.

7. That one is an excellent question.

I live in the area, and despite all the misinformation on the news (saying he was on College Avenue, for instance), if you saw the building and knew the area, his choices aren't hard to believe. They are obviously not the best decisions, but honestly they are in the top 2-3 most logical approaches. Also, the corner store where he would have rounded the corner to and from his car has been vacant for a while, so no shopkeeper or customers there had a presence.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first commenter. It makes sense that the foster father parked where he did. While I don't condone leaving any child unattended, as the mother of a child who has mild CP (probably very similar to Hassani), what seems like a short trip around the corner for us can be a long trip for such a child. I'm not saying that the man is innocent, but the points you listed don't make me any more suspicious.
I would also like to point out the fact that Hassani wears ankle braces (SMO's), NOT silver leg braces like the media said. My son wears SMO's, and people have no idea he's wearing them until he takes off his shoes. Also, *most* children who are mildly affected enough to only need an ankle brace have enough control of their feet that they appear to be typical children to the untrained eye. It is quite possible that Hassani runs, jumps, and plays more or less like any other child. Thanks the the inaccuracy about his leg braces, most people were probably looking for a child who was limping along with big pieces of metal (think Forrest Gump) attached to his feet.
At any rate, I hope and pray that Hassani is found safe, even though it doesn't sound good.

Anonymous said...

The year in your title is wrong. He's been missing since August 10, 2009.

Janet said...


Villager said...

I don't have a good feeling about the outcome of this missing child...

peace, Villager

Janet said...

I don't either. While the parents (whatever) seem like perfectly normal, loving parents, things happen and people panic.

I personally think Dad popped the trunk and opened the side door so that if anyone did notice the vehicle, they could honestly say they didn't see the boy because the doors inhibited their sight.

And leaving Hasanni in the back alone while he walked around with the baby MAKES NO SENSE to me. As a mom, I carried two kids, one on each hip (back when I had hips, ha!), many, many times. Hasanni is 5 years old and they said he is about 3 feet tall and about 30 lbs. A freshly turned 4 year old in my family is 3'8" and 37 lbs. So he is small for being five.
Dad looked stout enough to handle it.

1. Do they have cell phones? Could he have called or text her and said "hey, we are back here"?
2. Even if there was no parking available in front of the shop, he could have pulled up, stopped, honked to get her attention.
3. If she was expecting him, he could have knocked on the damn door!! It is just not that loud in a shoe store.

Just my opinion, but something is just not right.