At 7:22 a.m., Jerilyn Ulroan called the police and asked if they knew where her daughter was. Ulroan had been drinking, she said, and now she couldn’t find her. Her one-and-a-half year old, Marybeth, was gone.
Ulroan’s call launched a massive search throughout City Subdivision this morning. Bethel Police Officers, Alaska State Troopers, Search and Rescue personnel, and community volunteers set up a grid and started knocking on doors, looking for Marybeth under homes and behind bushes.
“This is the biggest search I’ve ever done since I’ve been here,” said Natalie Hayes, a Bethel Police Department spokesperson. “All of our staff that was here was there with the police.”
After fearing the worst, Bethel Police Sergeant Jeff Lee found Marybeth in the Evon family’s house in City Subdivision. Fifteen-year-old Lavinia Evon had taken Marybeth home with her to keep her safe.
Marybeth’s day started at 1 a.m. Evon says that she and her cousin were walking home when they saw a woman walking with a stroller in front of them on the road. Evon says that when she saw the woman again, she had collapsed.
“I looked at her, saw the stroller on the side, her next to it laying on the ground,” said Evon, who did not know Ulroan at the time. “And I was waking her up, telling her she needs to get up because you have a little girl with you.”
That little girl was Marybeth Ulroan.
According to Evon, she and her cousin asked the woman where she lived. The woman gave them a nearby address, but when the girls took her there, no one was home. Evon says that the woman kept passing out, so Evon decided to call the police around 2 a.m. She says that the police arrived but didn’t stay.
“They couldn’t do anything about it,” said Evon, “so, the cop left.”
Later in an email, police spokeswoman Natalie Hayes said that they received a call around two this morning about a possibly intoxicated woman and a child sleeping on a porch. According to the police department’s service logs, the officer who spoke to the woman deemed her able to care for herself and wrote that she “appeared to be sober.” That woman was Jerilyn Ulroan.
Evon and her cousin went home after the police came, but she says that the situation didn’t feel right to them. So around 3 a.m., Evon got up and decided to go back to the house where they had taken the woman so that she could check on Marybeth.
“Of course her mom’s there, sitting, passed out,” said Evon. “Her baby was just sitting there. I just put on her sweater. She was crying. Her mom didn’t wake up, so I took her, brought her here.”
Marybeth slept between Evon and her cousin last night. They gave her a new pair of socks that didn’t quite fit, “just to keep her little feet warm,” said Evon.
“From her feet all the way to her legs, her hands, her arms were cold,” Evon said, “so I had to do something about it.”
When asked what Bethel residents should do if they find an endangered child, Hayes said that they should call the police.
According to Hayes, the District Attorney is planning to forward criminal charges against Jerilyn Ulroan. Marybeth is now in the care of OCS, the Office of Children’s Services.
Correction: In a previous version of this story, we stated that employees of the Bethel Police Department told KYUK that the police department was never called about this case. That is incorrect; the police were called at 2:30 a.m. An earlier version of this story also stated that the District Attorney was planning to press criminal charges against Jerilyn Ulroan. The Bethel Police Department is forwarding charges to the District Attorney’s Office and it is not yet clear that they will be pressing charges. Also in the previous version, a witness said the police took 20 minutes to arrive after being called. Police logs show that an officer arrived in 15 minutes.