The Disappearance of Noah McIntosh

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EARLY LIFE:

Noah Thomas McIntosh was born on March 31, 2010 to parents Bryce McIntosh and Jillian Godfrey. When born, it was discovered he had a birth defect called bladder exstrophy, amongst others, which resulted in his bladder being on the outside of his body. While the condition was surgically corrected, it affected Noah’s ability to control his bladder.

Since his birth, Noah lived in Anaheim, California with his maternal grandparents, Douglas and Maggie Godfrey, along with his older sister. He lived with them up until approximately a year and a half before his disappearance, when Jillian shared she wanted them the children to live with Bryce and attend school in Corona, California.

When Noah and his sister moved out of their grandparents’ house, they went to live at the Encanto Apartments at 4637 Temescal Canyon Road. Bryce’s apartment was Road Unit #201. At the time, Bryce worked for American Medical Response as an emergency medical technician. The children lived with Bryce, as Jillian was living in her car at the same apartment complex. She made sure to visit them every Tuesday.

Growing up, Noah was described as a happy child who wanted everyone around him to feel the same way. He was a third grade student at Todd Academy, a school within the Corona-Norco Unified School District. Most neighbours recall seeing him walk his dog around the apartment complex, and he was known to wait by the complex’s gates each day to wish everyone a good morning. However, this cheeriness hid what was occurring within his father’s apartment, where he and his sister faced regular abuse. Noah, in particular, would receive the brunt of Bryce’s abuse, as his father, believing his son was being lazy regarding his toiletry habits, would severely punish him whenever he had an accident.

DISAPPEARANCE:

The date Noah disappeared is currently unknown, but is believed to have occurred sometime in early March 2019. Most agencies give the date as March 6, 2019.

In early March 2019, Noah’s sister, then around 10 to 11 years of age, was staying with her paternal grandfather, Steven McIntosh. She returned home on March 10. When Steven dropped her off, Bryce informed him that Noah was missing, but refused to go to the police to file a missing persons report. This struck Steven as unusual, especially when he recalled a phone call he’d had with his son on March 5, when Bryce said both he and Noah had been suffering from food poisoning.

Around the same time, Bryce’s sister tried to reach him via telephone, as he’d missed a family event. However, he wouldn’t answer or return her calls.

On March 12, 2019, Jillian, on the urging on Bryce’s sister, contacted the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) and requested a welfare check on her son. She informed them that she hadn’t seen him since she’d dropped him off at Bryce’s apartment on March 4 and that Bryce had informed her on March 8 that Noah was missing, but that he would “handle it”. Officers were dispatched to check on the “at-risk” child, but found they were unable to contact Bryce in-person or over the phone. As such, they made plans to return the next day.

At 8:00am on March 13, the Corona Police Department’s Special Response Team returned to Bryce’s apartment to execute a search warrant on the unit and Bryce’s vehicle. They brought with them the SWAT team, as they believed him to possibly be in possession of weapons and to be of an unknown mindset. This resulted in a standoff that lasted until Bryce finally exited the unit with his daughter. Noah was not present.

INVESTIGATION:

During the execution of the search warrant on March 13, 2019, investigators seized numerous electronic devices, including Bryce’s cellphone and computers. They also found handcuffs, zip ties, purple latex gloves and stained yellow towels. They also located the owner’s manual for a Ninja-brand blender, but could not locate the appliance in the apartment. While there, Bryce invoked his right to remain silent and requested an attorney.

Upon receiving the electronic devices, the FBI conducted a thorough analysis of Bryce’s online search history. On the computer, they found he’d searched “What exactly is sulphuric acid?”, “What does sulphuric acid do to aluminum?”, “What kind of plastic can stand muriatic acid?”, “Can you buy sulphuric acid?” and “Clean shot drain opener sulphuric acid MSDS”, while his cellphone showed searches for “Normal heart rate for 8-year-old when they are running”, “Normal heart rate for 8-year-old”, “How exactly sodium hydroxide works” and “Sodium hydroxide to water”.

That same day, Jillian and Bryce were arrested and later charged by the district attorney with wilful child cruelty, to which they plead not guilty. They were held at the Robert Presley Detention Center. Neither had previous arrest records.

While in custody, Jillian spoke with investigators and changed her initial story. She shared that she’d lied about the last time she’d seen Noah and said she’d actually saw him on March 2, 2019. From March 1 to 3, she had been staying with Bryce at his apartment. On March 2, Bryce had taken Noah into the bathroom, where Jillian recalled hearing her son ask why his father was hurting him. To her recollection, she never saw Noah leave the bathroom, and she left the apartment on March 3, after Bryce told her he needed to go to the local Home Depot. This admission would result in investigators later visiting the store and reviewing its surveillance footage.

When Jillian’s cellphone was taken as evidence, it was discovered she’d kept notes regarding the abuse Noah faced. Some of the documented examples include him being placed in hot water, him being placed in cold water for approximately 2 1/2 hours, him being placed in a bathtub filled with cold water for over six hours, and him being left in the bathroom with his feet tied up.

At the beginning of the investigation, it was unclear if Jillian and Bryce were separated or divorced. It was later learnt that the pair had never been married.

On March 14, 2019, the DPSS reported Noah had been missing for more than a week and that his parents had been arrested for “child abuse-related charges”. They also stated that the household had been deemed “unsafe”.

When investigators spoke with Noah’s sister while in the custody of Riverside County Child Protective Services, she said that she’d be aware Noah was missing because Bryce had told her so. She also shared that Noah’s abuse often involved the use of the bathtub, cold water and handcuffs, and that she’d once helped Bryce hold Noah’s legs below the water.

When questioned by police, Noah’s relatives said they hadn’t seen him since early March 2019 and that they couldn’t provide any information regarding his current whereabouts. They’d last seen him around the apartment complex.

Local police teamed up with county, state and federal law enforcement agencies in their search for Noah. There were citizen volunteers who wished to get involved in the search, but they were told to hold off until their aid was requested. Areas of interest searched by investigators include Lee Lake and the surrounding hills near the 15 Freeway, as well as the city of Murrieta and Tom’s Farm, located near the 23900 block of Temescal Canyon Road. They would not share why they had searched Lee Lake.

Through the review of surveillance footage, investigators were able to confirm Bryce had purchased numerous items of interest in the days surrounding Noah’s disappearance. They noted he’d purchased two long-cuffed gloves, 24″ bolt cutters, muriatic acid and one 128-ounce bottle of drain opener from a nearby Home Depot store; a 32-gallon Brute trashcan and a 32-ounce bottle of sulphuric acid drain opener at Lowe’s Home Improvement; and two bottles of drain opener from Target.

On March 4, 2019, data from Bryce’s cellphone shows he made a trip to Squaw Mountain Road in Temescal Valley, around 9:27pm, before heading to Target. A day later, his cellphone pinged on Wilson Valley Road in Aguanga, a remote and unincorporated area more than 50 miles east of his apartment, between 9:29pm and 9:50pm. The resulting pings led investigators to search Aguanga on March 16, where, with the help of the K9 unit, they discovered a trashcan matching the one purchased, with traces of human blood on the inside; homework with “Noah M” written on it; numerous purple latex gloves; a single blue long-cuffed glove; parts of a Ninja-brand blender; numerous blankets and yellow towels; a plastic bag with human blood residue; and empty drain cleaner bottles. When Squaw Mountain Road was searched, investigators found yet more items of interest, including one purple latex glove, a soiled yellow towel, used cleaning wipes and part of a wooden spoon.

When police searched Bryce’s vehicle, they found a purple latex glove, which matched the ones found at both the Aguanga and Squaw Mountain Road sites.

On March 18, 2019, investigators were observed visiting the McIntosh apartment with agents from the FBI, a forensics team and a plumber. The plumber brought with him camera equipment and is said to have removed P traps from the apartment’s bathtubs, bathroom sinks and the kitchen sink. When he analyzed the P traps, he found that the ones removed from the bathtubs appeared cleaner than the others, considering the age of the apartment.

Along with searching the drains, investigators also looked through the unit’s garage, and were observed removing several boxes of evidence from the apartment. While they wouldn’t give any indication of the items removed, observers noted they were wrapped in a blue tarp and appeared to be large and heavy.

On March 20, 2019, a report was written, which noted that Bryce – or “the caregiver” as he’s referred to in the report – was known to employ a type of discipline that was seen as inappropriate and excessive, and that the abuse-risk level of the home had been “high”. It’s currently unclear who wrote-up the report or why it was created weeks after Noah was first reported missing.

Bryce was charged with first-degree murder with a special circumstance of torture on March 28, 2019, a charge for which he could receive either a life sentence without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Investigators shared that they’d found trace evidence, which left “no doubt” in their minds that Noah had been the victim of a homicide, and while they couldn’t publicly release details due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, they accused Bryce of trying to conceal evidence through the use of acid and other products. They believe Bryce’s vehicle, a black BMW 330i with California license plates 5MKE807, was a key element in the murder and thus asked anyone who may have seen it between March 4 and 5, 2019 to contact them. They also asked residents of Corona, Temescal Valley and Murrieta to call in if they recalled seeing either Jillian, Noah or Bryce between the dates of February 20 and March 12, 2019.

Given the charge, the case moved from a missing child investigation to a “no body” homicide. In April 2019, Bryce plead not guilty to both the murder and child abuse charges.

That same day, the DPSS received notification that they needed to complete a child fatality report for Noah, given his father had been charged with his murder.

Toward the end of March 2019, the residents of Riverside County held a candlelight vigil for Noah and hung blue ribbons around the county, which symbolized awareness for child abuse. The vigil was held at Spyglass Park, and local community members and city officials were in attendance.

As the investigation progressed, Noah’s maternal grandfather spoke with the media and told them that a year before his grandson went missing he’d contacted Child Protective Services, fearing Noah was being abused by Bryce, something that was later confirmed to Douglas by Noah himself. He feels Bryce is responsible for the murder and had been concerned in the past about his “terrible temper”, as he is known to be a violent man. If given the chance, he shares that he and his wife would have taken back Noah in a heartbeat.

Upon the request of news outlets, the juvenile court made the rare decision to release Noah’s DPSS record upon coming to the conclusion he was most likely deceased. This meant that juvenile confidentiality laws no longer applied. This is something the attorney representing Noah and his sister opposed, as there was no proof the boy was dead. The information that was released showed a history of abuse that dated all the way back to 2013.

According to the record, the DPSS began receiving reports that Noah was being abused in Orange County in 2013, as at the time his body showed numerous bruises, including an adult-sized handprint on his buttocks and a black eye. At the time, Noah is also said to have told social workers that Bryce spanked him in the stomach. Both Bryce and Jillian were investigated twice regarding these claims, but the cases were closed in October 2013 due to the reports being “unfounded”.

In redacted Riverside County records, a social worker made passing reference to the 2013 abuse, saying Noah’s black eye was the result of Bryce having thrown a wallet at his face. This was listed in the “Background Checks” section of the first 2017 report, but it’s not clear when or how the social worker received this information.

The released records further stated that, since August 2017, social workers had received at least 10 reports that Bryce was abusing Noah and his sister and that Jillian was failing to protect her children. The first report noted that Noah had told a police officer and the responding social worker that Bryce had zip-tied his wrists and ankles, blindfolded him and dunked him into freezing cold water because he’d soiled his pants on accident. He also shared that he’d been handcuffed to the bathtub and forced to sit in cold water for hours at a time, and he recounted one incident where Bryce force-fed him laxatives and made him sit in his feces all day before having to clean it up himself. According to the report, Bryce admitted to this, but said he only did so in order to teach Noah how to properly use the toilet.

Between August 17 and 24, 2017, the reporting party, whose name was redacted, called the Children’s Services Division hotline again and was transferred to the voicemail of the social worker who first checked on Noah. It’s believed this anonymous person was Douglas Godfrey. On August 24, a social worker and a police officer from the Corona Police Department attempted to make in-person contact with Bryce regarding the claim, but he refused to speak with them and told them he was unavailable. According to a report written about the interaction, Bryce denied being Noah’s biological father and admitted to severely punishing the boy for his bathroom issues.

On August 25, 2017, a officer with the Corona Police Department returned to the apartment to conduct a safety inspection, but was forced to leave after Bryce refused to open the door. Three days later, the social worker completed a safety assessment, where it was noted that the “caregiver caused serious physical harm to the child”, but that Noah was safe. The case would officially be closed on September 6, 2017, a day after the initial responding officer contacted the social worker to say the criminal investigation had been dropped.

On November 9, 2017, another report of child abuse was called in after Bryce forced his son to attend school in just a diaper, shirt and shoes, in an attempt to humiliate him for his toilet issues. When contacted by the school, Bryce said there were clothes in Noah’s backpack, which included a pair of female red/pink shorts and a zip-up hoodie with butterflies on it, items which resulted in other students teasing the young boy. Hoping to quell the teasing, the school’s principal went to Target and bought Noah new clothes. When asked why he’d sent Noah to school dressed in such a way, Bryce cited the toileting issues and shared that he felt his son was being lazy and that he no longer had a medical condition. The social worker who investigated the report noted that Jillian hadn’t protected Noah and that the family as a whole needed to seek counselling, parenting classes or some other form of support. They also wrote that Bryce was punishing Noah in a way that was “punitive and humiliating” and “opening the child up to ridicule”.

November of that year saw numerous other claims being reported, including calls on the 21, 22 and 28 of the month. Once again, law enforcement officials and social workers attempted to make contact with Noah’s parents, but were unsuccessful. As a result, Riverside County closed its investigation into the family on December 17, 2017, citing the reason as the “parents’ refusal to cooperate”.

In February 2018, Noah once again spoke with a social worker at school, who is said to have also spoke with Bryce, if only briefly, after a report was called in regarding his and his sister’s sleeping arrangements. An attempt was also made to contact Jillian in order to try and offer her housing, as she was living still in her car at the time, but to no avail. On February 15, the social worker reported that the household contained “no children likely to be in immediate danger of serious harm”, and no further claims were called in.

At the end of the 18 months, starting in August 2017 and ending in March 2019, all but two of the reports were closed, with the reasons stated as “unfounded” or “inconclusive”, while some were left open with no final determination provided. The two allegations not closed were said to be “substantiated” in March 2019, just a week before Noah is said to have disappeared, but since the investigating social workers couldn’t substantiate the allegations of abuse in-person, Noah was unable to be removed from the home.

In October 2019, a civil attorney by the name of Robert Booth filed a claim against Riverside County on behalf of Noah and his sister, alleging the county’s Department of Public Social Services “dropped the ball” when they failed to take action in response to the numerous complaints regarding the abuse the pair faced. The claim said that the social workers – five staff members from the Children’s Services Division – had violated their duty to protect the two from abuse and that the their civil rights had been violated as a result. As such, he was seeking an undisclosed amount of money in connection to Noah’s disappearance and presumed death. The claim took six months to prepare and served as a notice to Riverside County that a suit would follow, and gave the county an opportunity to settle or reject the claim altogether.

The claim highlighted the mishandling of child abuse and neglect cases at the hands of the DPSS, and showed that Noah’s case was simply one of many high-profile cases handled by the department.

On December 19, 2019, Jillian plead guilty to two counts of child endangerment while in attendance at a pre-trial hearing at the Riverside County Superior Court. The judge ordered the plea form sealed, meaning the terms of the agreement Jillian made with the prosecutor in exchange for her admission of guilty could not be made public. She will be sentenced on April 3, 2020.

Bryce is currently awaiting trial. He is scheduled to attend a pre-trial hearing on March 20, 2020.

Noah’s body has yet to be found, but foul play is suspected in his disappearance due to the circumstances involved. It’s unclear when he was killed, but investigators believe it occurred between March 3 and 4, 2019. A possible motive has been determined, but has not been revealed due to the active nature of the investigation, and police continue to look into the case.

AFTERMATH:

Noah’s maternal grandparents held a memorial for him out of state for those within the family. They’ve shared that there will be no closure until his body is found.

From March to April 2019, a local business called Cinnaholic sold the “Noah Cinnamon Roll”, which saw 10% of proceeds donated to the Joyful Hearts Foundation for child abuse awareness.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Noah Thomas McIntosh was last seen in Corona, California during the early days of March 2019. He was eight years old, and what he was last seen wearing is currently unknown. At the time of his disappearance, he stood at 4’5″ and weighed approximately 55 pounds. He has strawberry blond hair and blue eyes.

Currently, his case is classified as a no body homicide. If alive, he would be nine years old.

Those with information regarding the case can contact the Corona Police Department at either 951-736-2330 or 951-279-3659. An official police tip line has also been set up at 951-817-5837.

Image Credit: Oxygen

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