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Parents Squabble, Lose Daughter

September 24, 2014 permalink

When parents Josh and Amanda Harris had an argument in a park, they left separately each believing the other took their 4-year-old daughter Zayshia. The girl was picked up by Kansas police and the parents have to fight to get her back from foster care.



Girl, 4, found wandering at Wyandotte County Lake playground

Zayshia Harris


The parents of a 4-year-old girl found wandering at Wyandotte County Lake say they made a significant mistake and will never put their daughter at risk again.

Zayshia Harris remains with a foster family as authorities sort it all out, including by interviewing other family members. The couple still has custody of their other four children.

"It was just an accident that turned into a nightmare," said Josh Harris, the girl's father.

After the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Office went public Sunday afternoon with news that the girl had gone unclaimed for more than 12 hours, the mother contacted authorities. The mother then went to the sheriff's office headquarters Sunday afternoon where detectives questioned her.

The couple said in an exclusive interview with KCTV5 that a fight between them led to a miscommunication. Each parent thought the other had Zayshia.

The child was found in the playground area near the front entrance. Parkgoers alerted a deputy on routine patrol that the girl was alone at the playground at dusk. The deputy then took control of the girl after the parents couldn't be located.

Lt. Kelli Bailiff of the Wyandotte County Sheriff's Office said the little girl told deputies her name, and she said she lives in the Kansas City, KS, area.

The child was taken to the hospital to be checked out. She's fine physically and is now in protective custody, Bailiff said.

"She's safe, and she's doing well," Bailiff told KCTV5.

Authorities are interviewing family friends and relatives to verify the couple's separate accounts including where each was Saturday night.

KCTV5 spoke to Josh and Amanda Harris. They live in a KCK neighborhood with their five children. They were having marital problems when they headed to the lake on Saturday with some friends, and Josh and Amanda Harris took separate vehicles.

They say the spat continued at the lake, and they barely spoke to each other. When it was time to depart, each thought that Zayshia was leaving with the other parent. Amanda Harris went to a relative's house, where she spent the night. She didn't talk to her husband so she didn't know her daughter was missing. Josh Harris thought his youngest daughter was with his wife.

"We were giving each other time to cool off," Josh Harris said.

And then a relative saw the girl's face on KCTV5's Facebook page and alerted Amanda Harris. Panicked, she called her husband.

"So I called her dad screaming and crying and trying to see where she was. Then that's when he starts screaming, 'She's with you. She's with you.' And we just kept screaming and yelling," Amanda Harris recalled.

She then quickly called police and learned that their daughter was in foster care.

The couple readily admits they learned valuable lessons about relationships and parenting this weekend, and are quite relieved that their little girl is OK. Josh Harris says he will sleep on the couch if needed after a fight, and Amanda Harris said she will always check on her kids.

"My daughter is going with me from now on. If someone needs a ride, I'm sorry, but my girls are staying in my car," Amanda Harris said.

"From now on, when there's an argument, I'm sleeping on the couch, and you can have the bedroom," Josh Harris told his wife.

Deputies didn't immediately alert the public because they hoped a family member would contact authorities to report her missing. When more than 12 hours had passed and no one had come forward to claim the little girl, Bailiff alerted the media.

Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash thanked the media for their help and in getting the child's mother located. He said the woman saw her daughter on the news and then contacted deputies.

"Detectives are interviewing her to determine how this could come about," Ash said. "Obviously the 4-year-old didn't get out here by herself. Obviously somebody brought her."

A judge will determine later this week whether the child is returned to the care of her parents, Ash said. Until then, she remains in protective care.

"It's just something that, unfortunately, could have happened to anyone. Now we're just hoping to get our daughter back and be happy tomorrow," Josh Harris said.

"It's been hell," Amanda Harris said.

The lake is off 94th Street and Leavenworth Road in western Wyandotte County.

Those enjoying the lake Sunday afternoon were horrified by the situation and were grateful something awful didn't happen to the child who could have wandered into the lake.

One issue that will concern authorities is Amanda Harris' story has changed since Sunday. She said it's changed because she's had additional time to reflect on what happened, and that a female relative was suppose to be watching the 4-year-old girl.

Tiffany Simsheuser, Amanda Harris' stepsister, said Amanda Harris agreed to give her and her daughter a ride. She said two of Amanda Harris' children were with them. She said the rest of the children were suppose to be with Amanda Harris' stepmother.

"Amanda and Josh both know they are in the wrong for what happened," Simsheuser said. "They are not trying to put the blame off or act like they didn't do anything wrong. But at the same time, they are very loving parents."

She said the family is heartbroken that they couldn't get their daughter back on Monday.

"Every time I speak to her she is in tears," Simsheuser said.

A social worker visited the Harris home on Monday.

"They know that Zayshia's safer back home than wherever she's sitting at so they want her back home," Simsheuser said.

Source: WSMV Nashville