Ground search for Daphne Webb comes up empty

Dozens of law enforcement officials scouring an open space area near Oakland’s Merritt College came up empty as the search for a toddler missing since early July continues.

About 45 investigators and volunteers — along with six cadaver dogs and a helicopter circling above — spent several hours Saturday searching an area of parkland and trails west of the college for evidence that might help them determine what happened to 22-month-old Daphne Webb.

The little girl disappeared on July 10 when her father John Webb said he left her in his SUV with his 87-year-old mother — who suffers from dementia — while he went into an East Oakland liquor store to buy an energy drink.

The 49-year-old Webb says when he came out of the store, his daughter was gone.

Oakland police would not say what led them to search the location Saturday, an area police spokeswoman Johnna Watson termed “an area of interest.”

After the search was over, Oakland police Sgt. Mike Gantt told reporters search teams would not be returning to the area, but said he was “confident” investigators would determine what happened to Daphne:

 “We are done with this area for now. We do have one more location we are going to search in the future.”

Webb has never been described by police as a suspect in the case, but is now being termed a “person of interest.” He did not join in Saturday’s search.

Webb was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment the day after Daphne disappeared but was released from jail the next day when prosecutors declined to file charges.

He has custody of the little girl because Daphne’s mother is undergoing drug rehabilitation treatment.

Meanwhile, the FBI has announced they are providing an additional $10,000 as a reward in the case, doubling the total reward to $20,000.

Daphne is described as black, about 2 feet tall and weighing about 30 pounds. She has short, black, curly hair, a medium complexion, brown eyes and is missing part of her left ear.

She was last seen wearing an orange, two-piece pajama set with pink hearts and pink socks.