SHE CALLED OUT 'DADA'
Scenes of jubilation after 9-year-old found aliveSunday, October 17, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
After restless nights, days of searching and worry, the pain experienced by Korian Prussia, father of nine-year-old Phylisa Prussia vanished when he saw his daughter alive and heard her calling out for him.
“As she see mi, she say 'Dada!' Mi glad! You can know that she is strong, because as she see mi she call me. She just say 'Dada!' Mi give thanks,” Prussia told the Jamaica Observer yesterday at Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas, minutes after his daughter had been rescued and rushed to the facility.
The relieved father flashed a bright smile outside the hospital room and indicated that the mother of his children, Latoya Dyer, was inside with their daughter.
But moments earlier Dyer hollered and begged to be let into her daughter's room.
“Me waan see mi daughter… mi need fi see mi daughter,” she bellowed to police officers and hospital staff. She was then escorted to the room by Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson.
Phylisa, a grade four student at Bath Primary and Junior High School, was abducted from her home in St Thomas allegedly by a man who police said is before the court on rape and illegal possession of firearm charges in the neighbouring parish of Portland.
The parents, who operate a shop at their house, told the Sunday Observer that Phylisa was alone on the veranda, playing with her puppy, when the man came to purchase an item some time after 6:00 pm. Phylisa's older sister then discovered that she had gone missing.
But yesterday sadness and anxiety transformed into relief and joy when police vehicles sped through St Thomas communities, with other motorists transporting family members and friends trailing, with people shouting: “Dem find har! Dem find Phyl,” through windows.
It was pandemonium, as the youngest of boys and girls, and even elders, ran along roadways bellowing: “Dem find har… Dem find the little girl… thank yuh, Jesus!”
Among the searchers was “Fluffy”, Phylisa's dog who she had been playing with at the time of her disappearance.
“The dog did out here a search wid we from Thursday. Fluffy nuh leave her side,” a relative said.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Oniel Thompson, who led the search for Phylisa, she was found in a hut made of tarpaulin, in bushes in Arcadia District, eastern St Thomas.
DSP Thompson said multiple calls from citizens led the police to Phylisa's location.
“We received calls from citizens in the Arcadia district that a strange man was seen in the area and, based on the photograph which is being circulated, they suspected that it was the person who actually abducted Phylisa,” he said.
“We went in the area and we went in the bushes and we saw this person, [but] this person made good his escape. The police are now still searching for that person. We continue to search the bushes and where we saw certain things like food items and so on. So we suspected that this is where he stayed with her. We searched, followed the lead and there we found her.”
Further, Major General Anderson told the Sunday Observer that the girl had been found in a state of consciousness.
“She was standing when she was found. Obviously, she has been out there for a little while, so the medical team is attending to her now.”
Doreen Dyer, Phylisa's aunt, told the Sunday Observer that when she saw her niece she was appeased, yet outraged.
“From Thursday she deh inna bush and when me see how her skin stay and her face, the way the mosquito dem do har, it hurt me,” she said as tears flowed.
“I want to congratulate all the police officers from Bath. Dem work from Thursday night and they have been working with us. Dem nuh leave we no time at all. Bath police deserve a medal. Dem do dem best. Mi nuh know all a them name up at the station, but mi thank all a dem... the community of Bath and all 'bout. A 14 parishes, but mi a say 15. Thank unnu very much fi mek mi find mi niece,” Doreen continued, while sitting on the ground outside the hospital. She had collapsed moments after arriving at the hospital.
Donovan Donnal, Phylisa's cousin, was one of the individuals who first found her in the bushes. Donnal was adamant that the hunt is far from over, as the kidnapper is still on the loose.
“A three night wi out pon the road a hunt fi mi cousin. A mi favourite cousin that, enuh. Mi love har bad! We feel good say wi find her, but wi waan find di bwoy now. That boy shoulda never inna wi community,” he lamented.
Another relative, Dana Sutherland, said she didn't give up on hopes that Phylisa would have been found alive.
“My whole body is just numb. Just imagining her in the bush for so long. What she was going through and what she was feeling. But throughout it all I didn't give up. I didn't lose hope. No time at all. It's like I was crying, but I wasn't crying because I was thinking the worse.
“We just go through and pray, and do it by hope and faith, because we know say wi haffi find her. The greatest thing is that Father God make wi find her safe and the alright. That is the only thing weh matter right now.”
Beverley Edwards, who taught Phylisa in grade one, credits the girl's safe return to the prayers of many.
“I give God thanks. Thank you, Lord. A lot of prayer was going up for this little girl. From it happened, persons have been storming the mercy seat. I want to say thanks to all the persons who went down on their knees, frustrated before God, and asked him for the safe return of this little girl. I'm so thankful,” she told the Sunday Observer.
Edwards said she visited the family yesterday, and encouraged them to “keep the faith”.
“The community came out and give their full support and I am so thankful. This is Jamaica. This is what teamwork is all about… when we pull together. We are a powerful people and a prayerful people. When we come together as a team, and work together, we are always successful.
“I went by the house this morning after I went across the river, but nobody was at home. She's now in grade four, and I taught her in grade one. She's a very, humble, quiet and brilliant student. She's not a troublemaker. She always has this beautiful smile.”
Meanwhile, Major General Anderson added that the efforts to find Phylisa expanded beyond the police force.
“I think everybody was inspired to keep up the search on this. We had about 450 or so community members out from all the surrounding communities. We also had JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force] personnel from St Thomas, Canine Unit, persons from Kingston who joined, Specialised Operations, the JDF [Jamaica Defence Force], helicopter in the space, people from the CPFSA [Child Protection and Family Services Agency] were on the ground, and the Jamaica Fire Brigade. So it's really a collective effort and we got the exact result we wanted from it,” he said.
“Phylisa is alive. She is being seen by medical persons at the moment, and so that's the best of outcomes that we could've hoped for. It makes it all worthwhile.”
He urged citizens to not partake in jungle justice if they see the accused, and advised them to alert the police if he is found.
“Let the police know. We want to capture him and get him back into custody. We have been speaking to citizens because he is somebody we want to question. We don't know what else he may have been up to, so we really want to get him alive so we can find out what he's been up to.”