Authorities in Mississippi are currently searching for a family considered missing and “endangered” after discovering the family’s abandoned and overturned car in a Hermanville, Miss. ditch on Saturday morning. Altira Hughes-Smith, 30, her 7-year-old-son Jaidon Hill, and her husband, Laterry Smith, 34, were last seen driving their car on Friday after leaving a Halloween party in Flowood.
According to KLTV, Hughes-Smith, a nursing assistant at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, called members of her family Friday and said she was going out of town “for a couple of days.” And then the phone call suddenly ended.
At 7:10 a.m. Saturday morning, Copiah County sheriff’s deputies received a call about a burning car on a rural county road. When they arrived on the scene, deputies found an overturned smoldering tan Dodge SUV with a broken sunroof and damaged left fender. There was no sign of anyone in the car.
Law enforcement officials initially assumed the owners of the SUV had set the car on fire so they wouldn’t have to make insurance payments, but after running the plates and calling family members, they realized the family was missing. According to the authorities, the vehicle was “damaged to the point that the three easily could have been injured” and it appeared as though someone tried to burn the car. The woods nearby the car were searched and local hospital checks turned up nothing.
On Monday afternoon, Jackson police found a wallet belonging to Hughes-Smith and “other items connected to the missing family” in a dumpster in South Jackson. Police also searched the home of Smith's mother, located near the gas station dumpster where the belongings were found. Neighbors told investigators that Smith’s mother and sisters, who also lived at the home, moved out Sunday night.
Copiah County Sheriff Harold Jones said that the investigation is currently “at a standstill” but they have not ruled out foul play. “The longer you wait without contact, the more chance that something has tragically occurred,” Jones said. “It’s personal to me. I worry about children who can’t take care of themselves if they don’t have adults. I hope everybody’s fine, but I want to get that 7-year-old boy back.”
Those with information on the case are being asked to contact Crime Stoppers, the Copiah County Sheriff’s Department, or the FBI.