On August 27, 2006, Melinda Duckett put her two-year-old son Trenton to bed at approximately 7:00 p.m. After that, she and a few friends watched movies in the living room of her apartment in Leesburg, Florida. At 9:00 p.m., Melinda went into Trenton’s bedroom to see how he was doing, but all she saw was an empty crib. Trenton had vanished.
Melinda and Joshua Duckett, who were high school sweethearts and got married in July 2005 but divorced in July 2006, were the parents of Trenton. Josh and Melinda had a turbulent relationship and were both twenty-one years old. Trenton’s parents were embroiled in a contentious custody battle when the toddler vanished; Melinda and Josh each desired sole custody of the child. It was now unknown to them both where the young boy was.
At 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, Melinda called the Leesburg Police Department to report Trenton missing. A short time later, police arrived at the Windemere Villas apartment complex, where she resided. Melinda pointed out a 10-inch cut in the window screen of her son’s bedroom as they rummaged through her tiny apartment. Reporters were informed by detectives that it seemed the child had been taken out of the apartment via that window.
Trenton’s age prompted the Leesburg police to start a thorough search for the toddler right away. In an attempt to expedite the case’s resolution, agents from the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement joined the search for Trenton. They interviewed residents by going door to door in the apartment building and inquiring about any unusual sightings from earlier in the evening.
Authorities released an Amber Alert for the missing boy early on Monday morning. They acknowledged they still didn’t know exactly what had happened to him, but they felt he was in grave danger. There had been no reports of sightings of the missing toddler, and none of the Windemere Villas residents remembered hearing or seeing anything out of the ordinary the night Trenton disappeared.
Melinda begged for assistance in finding her son in an emotional press conference on Tuesday. She described him to reporters as a well-mannered, smart, and amiable youngster who was just beginning to speak and who enjoyed chasing ducks in a nearby pond. Melinda claimed she was keeping herself occupied by going door-to-door handing out flyers for missing people and doing anything else she could to help with the investigation. “As long as it aids in locating him.”
Not much had changed in terms of Trenton’s location by Tuesday. In order to perform a second search of the property and carry out more resident interviews, more than a hundred police officers went back to the Windemere Villas apartment complex. Trenton’s trail was not picked up by the six bloodhounds that were used to search the complex.
As Leesburg Police Capt. Steve Rockefeller pointed out, “We have been getting some leads and some tips,” despite the fact that authorities were disheartened by their inability to locate the young child. He went on to say that investigators thought there were a few people with relevant information withholding it, but he would not elaborate.
Trenton’s neighborhood was home to registered sexual offenders, with whom detectives interviewed for a large portion of Wednesday. However, none of them could be linked to Trenton’s disappearance. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Team Adam offered police assistance by talking with Trenton’s family members and distributing flyers for missing persons. Team Adam member Andrew Vita informed reporters that authorities were making every effort to locate Trenton. It’s a really thorough investigation. They work through the night. A few police officers have been present for a few days.
Detectives were informed by Windemere Villas apartment complex residents that they had not seen much of Trenton before he vanished. He was seldom observed playing outside, and several neighbors informed the police that they were unaware the apartment contained a child. They saw that Melinda hosted parties regularly, but she wasn’t a noisy host or an unruly neighbor.
Authorities stated on Friday that they could not find any proof that Trenton had suffered any injuries, but it was possible that he was being held close by. They were investigating the possibility that his disappearance was related to the custody dispute his parents were involved in. They also noted this. According to investigators, both parents had made violent threats and abuse allegations against each other in the months before Trenton vanished. They had also accused each other of wrongdoing.
Josh claimed that Melinda had threatened to harm their son in addition to herself, and that last year she had been hospitalized involuntarily under the Baker Act. Bushnell police confirmed that they had been called to the couple’s home on multiple occasions when their arguments became out of hand. They had also been called after Melinda was falsely accused of neglecting her son, an accusation that was later found to be untrue. The couple had been living in Bushnell, Florida, at the time.
Melinda told reporters that she didn’t want to talk about her hospitalization, stating that she had been overburdened by motherhood’s responsibilities and had never intended to harm herself or anyone else. Josh just said he was fully cooperating with the police and wanted to find his son; he would not discuss his marriage to Melinda with reporters.
Police returned to the Windemere Villas apartment complex a week after Trenton vanished, stopping every passing car. “The reason for this was to contact people on the same day and during the same time that Trenton disappeared,” Leesburg Police Captain Ginny Padgett said to reporters. The occupants of over 500 cars were questioned, but they didn’t get any information that would help with their investigation.
Josh Duckett made his public speaking debut on Tuesday, September 5, 2006, at a press conference. A “ball of joy” who was constantly “bouncing off the walls,” he described his son. Although he acknowledged that he and Melinda did not always get along, he maintained that finding Trenton was the most important thing. “The main issue isn’t the bad blood that exists there.” He declared that in addition to fully assisting the police, he was distributing thousands of missing flyers in an effort to locate his son.
Melinda informed reporters earlier in the week that she had passed a voice stress test and was still cooperating with police, but she did not attend the news conference. Police declined to discuss her findings.
Reporters were informed by Captain Rockefeller that detectives were attempting to verify Trenton’s location in the two days prior to his disappearance. “We are looking for more people, but we do have other people who said they saw him [that Saturday].” He mentioned that when detectives spoke with the two men Melinda was with when Trenton vanished, they both claimed not to have seen the young child at all.
Detectives said that Josh and Melinda were also possible suspects in Trenton’s kidnapping, ten days after he disappeared. Less than twenty-four hours after his son was reported missing, Josh took a polygraph, and they were “satisfied with the results,” they later withdrew this statement from reporters. Melinda, on the other hand, objected to taking a polygraph, saying she had recently retained counsel who advised against it. “We’re focusing a little bit less on Joshua,” Captain Rockefeller said.
Trenton’s disappearance was discussed on Nancy Grace’s hour-long CNN show almost two weeks after he went missing. She had become particularly involved in the case, hoping that more attention would help locate the missing toddler. There might be a single person who notices this child and knows something. My goal is to locate Trenton Duckett. I’d like to know this baby’s location.
The national exposure that CNN brought about was greatly appreciated by the Leesburg police. According to Captain Rockefeller, “We’re hoping for a big audience.” We would like everyone to view Trenton’s photo and contact us if they have any information about his whereabouts. He has been absent for the past eleven days and may be in Alaska, Canada, or California.
On September 7, 2006, Nancy Grace conducted interviews with Josh and Melinda. The following day, the episode centered around Trenton’s disappearance was slated to air. Melinda had gone through a terrifying ordeal because it was obvious that Nancy Grace didn’t think she was telling the truth about what had actually happened to her son. Melinda took her grandfather’s shotgun at 3:00 p.m. on September 8, 2006, a few hours before her interview was set to air on national television, locked herself in his closet, and took her own life.
Melinda’s family rushed to her defense, saying she ki*lled herself because she felt harassed by the media, not because she was sorry for what had happened to Trenton. Reporters were informed by her grandfather, Bill Eubanks, that Nancy Grace and the others had “just bashed her to the end.” She was infatuated with that baby, too.She wouldn’t harm an insect.
Investigators verified that Melinda had been the main suspect in Trenton’s disappearance after her death. They were still attempting to determine Melinda’s and her son’s whereabouts on the day before he disappeared. Melinda claimed that after going shopping, they took a few leisurely drives in her Mitsubishi Eclipse, and Capt. Rockefeller asked the public to assist in verifying her account. We want anyone who even remotely believes they saw Trenton and Melinda during that period to give us a call.
While Melinda’s family maintained that the press was to blame for her d*eath by su*icide, Josh countered that he had also been the target of intense police and media attention. “They posed inquiries. She only needed to provide honest answers to the questions in line with my responses. I was also the target of fingers at first. However, I responded to their inquiries and demonstrated that I was unrelated to this.
Despite Melinda’s sui*cide being a setback, the investigators never wavered in their commitment to finding Trenton. Admittedly, Capt. Rockefeller didn’t think the boy had been kidnapped by an outsider. “The more plausible scenario is that Trenton’s disappearance was caused in part by Melinda.” He said there was a 26-hour lapse between the time Trenton was reported missing and the last time anyone other than Melinda had seen him, but he had no idea if the child was de*ad or alive.
Melinda bought a shotgun from a pawn shop two days before Trenton vanished, but this was not the weapon she used to end her own life. Josh informed the detectives that although Melinda had previously trained at a rifle range, he was not aware that she had purchased a gun so soon before his son vanished.
Melinda’s lawyer, Kimberly Schulte, gave the media access to some of the information she had obtained from her client prior to her passing, three weeks after Trenton was last seen. Kimberly claimed that Melinda had driven around with her son on the Saturday before he vanished. She claimed to have gotten lost and was unable to find the shooting range, but she did bring her recently acquired rifle because she intended to go target shooting in the Ocala National Forest. She had spent eight hours driving around aimlessly without asking for directions, only halting once to change Trenton’s diaper in the Altamonte Mall parking lot.
In response to a question concerning her client’s assertions, Kimberly acknowledged that Melinda’s story appeared improbable but pointed out that “Melinda wasn’t great with directions.” She wandered off. She said that a hand-drawn map of the route she had taken had been given to her by her client. “She had nothing to conceal.” Kimberly acknowledged that she was unaware of Trenton’s situation. Tell you what, she didn’t do it. Nope. I’m here to confirm that she did it. Nope. However, I can attest that she adored that child.
Given that they discovered some of her son’s toys and pictures in an apartment complex dumpster the day after he was reported missing, investigators acknowledged that they had assumed almost immediately that Melinda had harmed her son. A sonogram picture that was taken when Melinda was expecting Trenton was also discovered in the trash. It appeared as though Melinda had cleared her apartment of all items that brought back memories of her son before bothering to report him missing to the police.
When Josh discovered what Melinda had thrown in the garbage, he was taken aback. It seems really strange to me. I mean, I still have every picture I have of him and every sonogram picture I took of her during her pregnancy. He said he had always thought Melinda was telling lies about what had happened to his son. “I’ve had doubts from the beginning. However, these are only conjectures. Somewhere, he held on to the hope that Trenton was still alive.
Searches for Trenton’s whereabouts in the Ocala National Forest by investigators and cadaver dogs yielded no results. They acknowledged that they had no proof that Melinda had ki*lled the child, but they also had no proof that he was still alive.
At least two witnesses claimed to have seen Melinda alone in Leesburg the day before Trenton disappeared, despite what Melinda had told her lawyer about spending hours driving around with him. Trenton might not have even been in the apartment on Sunday; whatever had happened to him might have happened on Saturday.
Over the years, dozens of searches have been conducted in an attempt to locate Trenton, but to no avail. Despite the fact that there is no concrete evidence to support the detectives’ belief that his mother kil*led him, he is still listed as missing. Josh is still hopeful that he will one day be reunited with his son and that the boy is still alive.
In August of 2006, Trenton John Duckett disappeared from Leesburg, Florida, at the age of two. Although they are unsure of his current whereabouts, detectives suspect his mother had a hand in his disappearance. Trenton was 3 feet tall and 35 pounds in weight when he vanished. He also has brown hair and brown eyes. When last seen, he was sporting a blue and green striped shirt along with denim shorts. Please call 352-787-2121 to report any information you may have about Trenton to the Leesburg Police Department.