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Missing boy returned to mother

Sunday, March 23, 2008 | 4:54 p.m. CDT; updated 12:21 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — The 7-year-old Columbia boy reported missing since Tuesday was returned to his mother on Saturday.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Avery’s father, Mark R. Brooks, 36, surrendered to authorities, and the boy was returned to his ex-wife, Jennifer Brooks, police said.

“Yesterday was an absolute relief,” Jennifer Brooks said. “Avery was fine, perfectly fine.”

Avery was reported missing Tuesday when he did not show up for school.

His parents have been divorced since May 4, 2004. The terms of their custody agreement state that Mark Brooks’ visitation rights end on Tuesday when he is expected to drop off Avery at school, according to police reports.

His mother tried contacting both Mark and Avery, but was unsuccessful. Police then began an investigation.

Police questioned Mark’s father, William Brooks, but he said he had no knowledge of their whereabouts after they left his home March 17, according to police reports.

According to a report by Columbia police Detective John Short, no one had seen Avery or Mark Brooks since that time.

Jennifer Brooks said she was especially concerned because Mark had disappeared before.

“He’s taken off before, but not with Avery,” she said, “He was gone a week once.”

She said the uncertainty was the most difficult part, but she felt fortunate to have the support of the community.

“I have had a wonderful, wonderful experience with people in the community,” she said.

Jennifer Brooks works at a school, and news of her missing son spread quickly. They gave her moral support and stayed on the lookout for Mark or Avery.

It really helped to know she wasn’t alone in this, she said.

Sunday, Avery and his mother were home preparing for Easter. Jennifer Brooks said they weren’t planning anything big; they were going to stay home and have the family over.

But Avery’s grandparents, who stood by her throughout the whole ordeal, will be able to see their grandchild, she said.


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