As every parent knows, you can’t take your eyes off of kids even for a second. Don’t believe us? Just consider the case of Rainn Peterson. After all, this two-year-old was in the care of her great-grandparents when something terrifying happened. You see, Rainn’s great-grandmother called her and her two brothers in to dinner, but only two of the children responded. Rainn had vanished.
This event took place in Trumbull County, Ohio, one Friday in October 2015. Rainn had been playing with her brothers, aged three and four, at her great-grandparents’ home in North Bloomfield. Seemingly, the children were being watched by their great-grandparents while their mom moved home.
While the great-grandfather Richard Peterson had been working in the basement, the children’s great-grandmother Dora Mae went to the kitchen to fix their dinner. But when she called out to the kids that it was time to eat, toddler Rainn was nowhere to be seen.
Of course, Richard and Dora Mae immediately started looking around the property and over its grounds – but there was no sign of the toddler. Strangely, the only way Rainn could have gotten out was through an unlocked garage door, which Richard and Dora Mae thought she wouldn’t have been capable of opening. So, after a 30-minute search, Rainn’s great-grandparents called the police.
Soon, a search team was assembled, and the hunt for the little girl quickly brought an entire community together. In fact, hundreds of police officers, emergency service crew and local volunteers all joined in. Amid the tall grass and endless fields of the area’s farmland, however, the search was not going to be easy.
And despite 150 law enforcement officers and an additional 400 local volunteers pitching in, there were no signs of two-year-old Rainn that day. Sniffer dogs and helicopters were also unable to track the little girl. Nevertheless, the search went on through woodlands, on neighbors’ property and throughout the drainage system – but little Rainn was nowhere to be seen.
It being October, temperatures were starting to drop to the low-40s at night, and there had been heavy rain in the area. Additionally, the two-year-old had seemingly been without food, water or shelter overnight, and it was known that coyotes hunted in the area. Hope was fading fast.
But then emergency services received a phone call. The man at the end of the line said, “I found baby Rainn and she’s alive.” Yes, a full 48 hours after her disappearance, a local volunteer had found the youngster asleep in a field not even a mile from her great-grandparents’ home.
Local man Victor Sutton had given up his time to help look for the little girl. He told WFMJ, “She was laying there still. I thought the worst but I yelled her name and she poked her head up and opened her eyes so I was elated to know she was alive.”
On the Sunday evening, the light had been getting low, but Sutton hadn’t given up on the search. He told Fox 8, “I went from despair to total elation in literally three seconds.” Despite her confusion, minor scratches, dirty clothes, a missing shoe and the flies covering her, Rainn seemed to be unharmed.
The child’s discovery, however, would raise almost as many questions as her mysterious disappearance did. After all, how did a two-year-old survive the cold, wind and rain with no food, water or shelter for two whole days? And how was she found with no serious trauma in an area that had already been searched?
Sutton said that he combed an untracked area of the field on his all-terrain vehicle. Then when he spotted a purple patch in the tall grass, he went over and realized that it was Rainn wearing the same clothes as she had been when she vanished. Rainn was subsequently taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia, a bad case of diaper rash and dehydration.
Pediatrician Dr. John Cox pointed out that hypothermia can be present in children within a couple of hours spent out in the cold and rain. He said, “Being in wet clothes and cold, exposed air and the wind all night without shelter… I’m surprised she made it through.” In fact, Rainn’s survival is considered exceptional.
What was also a mystery was how Rainn could leave her great-grandparents’ home by herself. According to her great-grandmother, only the door to the garage had been unlocked. Furthermore, Dora Mae told Fox 8 Cleveland, “[Rainn] couldn’t open the door, she tried.”
Fortunately, though, Rainn spent less than a week recovering in hospital after she was found. She then returned to the custody of her great-grandparents, with officials unwilling to disclose why Rainn’s mother had lost custody of the two-year-old.
Two key pieces of evidence were subsequently discovered close to where Rainn was found: an apple and a cigarette butt. Could they have held a vital clue about what happened to the toddler that weekend? After DNA testing and a search of key individuals’ phones, police said they were led to “someone of interest.”
However, the disappearance and reappearance was so strange that it left the agencies involved – including the local police department, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the FBI and members of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children – scratching their heads. In fact, the case is still open today, unsolved.
It is, of course, possible that two-year-old Rainn could have gone wandering on her own and gotten lost. Indeed, some locals deemed it a miracle that she hadn’t fallen down a well, been hit by traffic or simply succumbed to the adverse weather conditions.
Sutton, the man who found Rainn, was known to the community as being “as honest as the day is long,” and he took no special praise for finding the toddler. In fact, he told Fox 8, “I was just in the right place. It could have been anybody. I didn’t do anything special or unique. I just spotted her.”
Her great-grandmother Dora Mae said, “It was hard to believe, because truthfully, I had given up hope. It had been so long. I thought, ‘It’s not going to be a good outcome,’ but it was. The puzzle is complete again. Well, except what really happened.”