Baby found safe, but questions run rampant after Parrish Amber Alert

Harlow Freeman

A 9-month-old baby missing Monday in Parrish, last seen inside her father’s white Lexus SUV. An Amber Alert sent across the state at 9:40 that night. Tips to police suggesting that vehicle had sped off. A $5,000 reward on offer by the family, and about 100 law enforcement officials working overnight in a desperate search.

When daylight comes, there’s a breakthrough. Someone sees the front bumper of a white vehicle nestled deep in a ravine about 100 yards from where SUV and baby went missing, nearly invisible thanks to all the tree-smothering kudzu. Rescuers scramble down to that gleaming bit of hope just before 8:30 a.m., and there she is.

Harlow Darby Freeman, snug as a bug inside her car seat, protected from the summer heat thanks to a previously knocked-out window offering ventilation and masses of vines for shade. Dehydrated but otherwise in good shape, she was rushed to Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham for a checkup.

Was this a miracle? Or something else entirely?

That’s what Parrish Police, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and other area investigators are figuring out today.

Baby Harlow was first reported missing just before 7 p.m. Monday, when her father called police and said she and the vehicle she was in had gone missing while he’d stepped inside a friend’s house for a few moments. During a news conference Tuesday, Parrish Police Chief Danny Woodward said investigators got tips that a vehicle matching the right description had been seen speeding away from the area.

Multiple police agencies and law enforcement teams soon arrived at the scene and began a major search effort. They came up empty on a trio of overnight searches, but the fourth search this morning struck gold. It would have been impossible to see from the road, Woodward said, and the area had been searched several times throughout the night with no luck.

“Considering what happened, this is the best-case scenario for us,” Woodward said. “Find the child alive and well.”

Woodward said he’s thankful for all the assistance in the search, from law enforcement, search volunteers and their supporters.

So how did Harlow and the SUV wind up in that ravine?

There are some theories. One of the most prominent? It rolled itself there, perhaps thanks to an unengaged parking brake.

But what about those tips regarding a vehicle speeding away? They were most likely unrelated.

“Anything is possible at this point,” Woodward said, and it’s still under active investigation.

The most important thing right this second, he said, is that Harlow is safe and sound.


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