As the search for 10-year-old Barway Collins reaches the three-week mark, a spokesman for the family asked that the community refocus its energy on finding the missing boy, instead of speculating about his father's alleged involvement.
Pastor Harding Smith, who has spoken on behalf of the Collins family since the ordeal began, said at a Monday afternoon news conference that questions surrounding the boy's father have divided the Liberian community and are making search efforts for the boy harder, KARE 11 reports.
“This man has been charged and found guilty already in the minds of most people,” Smith said, according to WCCO.
Police say they consider the boy's father a suspect, but he has not been arrested or charged.
Barway Collins has not been seen since March 18, when he was dropped off at his apartment building in Crytal after school.
Surveillance video shows he walked up to the building’s entrance but then turned around and walked the other way.
Police released video footage of Collins just before he got off the school bus, in which he can be heard saying, “There’s my dad” and, “Oh, my uncle’s here.”
WCCO says Collins' father told police he was not there when Barway got off the bus, and he doesn't know who Barway was referring to when he mentioned his uncle.
At the news conference, Smith answered some questions that have arisen, including a rumor that the father took out a life insurance policy on Barway shortly before he went missing.
Smith told reporters that the father purchased life insurance for all of his children, and he did it three years ago.
He also said the family heard from Barway's biological mother in Liberia on Sunday, and he is not with her, according to KARE 11.
Police and volunteers have conducted several organized searches for Barway, most of them focused along the Mississippi River. But so far they've found no evidence that could help solve the case.
Smith urged the community to refocus its efforts on searching for Barway.
“He’s our treasure. He belongs to the community. He belongs to this family,” Smith said, according to WCCO.
A $12,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to the arrest of whoever is responsible for Collins’ disappearance.