SE OF BROWNING — The search and recovery efforts southeast of Browning for missing three-year old Arden Pepion continued on Sunday. At this point, authorities have no indication that Arden was abducted, and are continuing to investigate the circumstances of her disappearance. She was last seen on Thursday at about 7 p.m. in the vicinity of Joe Show East Road off of US Highway 89. Arden was wearing a purple jacket with a a unicorn design on the front, a grey under-sweater, black leggings, and black boots with green trim.
The search effort for Arden shifted to a recovery mission on Saturday afternoon. Officials said that "based on the elements and duration of time that has passed since she was last seen, we have come to realize that it is now a recovery."
On Sunday, the water flow was being diverted from the area of the search along Two Medicine River into an irrigation ditch, which normally doesn't happen until late spring.
James McNeely, Blackfeet Tribe public information officer, said, "There was a report at one time of shoe tracks going that way and so that was kind of their lead into looking out there. It was snowing that night when she disappeared so that’s why they’re utilizing that now because of the proximity of the house to the river, that’s why they’re basing their decision on that right now.”
The search teams consist solely of trained personnel at this time, and they have covered a 10-mile stretch of river so far. One of the volunteer searchers, who is not acting in an official capacity, said on Saturday that helicopters, divers, drones, dogs, and professional search teams are participating. She also noted that searchers have encountered a bear, a mountain lion, and coyotes. She added that people also leave gates open with cattle, horses, and bison in danger of getting on the road and causing an accident. She added: "The community support is amazing as well as everyone that jumped to donate their time and effort."
Incident Control Commander Marti Grinsell explained, “Right now we have close to one hundred volunteers that are from other agencies that are trained to do this, and we have such a short section of the river and with the mass amount of people, we can cover more ground with less people. It’s not that I didn’t want all the community volunteers, it’s the fact that where we’re pointing all of our searches, we kind of need more of the trained people coming in and assisting with that.”
Though community members are not able to directly assist in the search at this point, volunteers have set up a "cook shack" for search personnel to get hot food and beverages, thanks to community donations. WATCH:
Margi St. Goddard explained, “We’re all family here, we’re close knit. The Blackfeet people come together as a community in a time of need, especially at the time where we’re having a crisis. Everybody feels for this child, she’s an innocent baby. we all want to come out to help to bring her home to the family.”
SATURDAY: Search for child shifts to recovery
(UPDATE, FRIDAY, 4:35 p.m.) The Montana Department has issued a Missing-Endangered Person Advisory for Arden, at the request of the Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services.
Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services also asked that anyone with information about Arden, or anyone who has questions about the search, to call 406-845-8710, saying that they will "answer questions to the best of our ability."
Some people have asked why an AMBER Alert has not been issued. The reason is that officials have no indications that Arden was abducted, which is the primary factor used to determine if an AMBER Alert is issued. Click here to learn more about AMBER Alerts.
(1st REPORT, FRIDAY 10:59 a.m.) Early Friday, Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services (BLES) posted an "attempt to locate" message for three-year old Arden Pepion. The alert says that she was last seen on Thursday at about 7 p.m. in the vicinity of Joe Show East Road off of US Highway 89. Arden was last seen wearing a purple jacket with a a unicorn design on the front, a grey under-sweater, black leggings, and black boots with green trim.
Law enforcement officers, tribal leaders, and volunteers are searching the area, some on horseback and ATVs. James McNeely, public information officer for the Blackfeet Tribe, said in a news release: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family for a safe return of Arden as well as prayers for the safety of all our search and rescue teams who have been working very diligently during this time.
Anyone who has seen Arden or who has information about her location is asked to call Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services at 406-338-4000, or call 911. We will update you if we get more information.