"She was the life of the party," Lynette Thompson said. "She was playful. She’d hit you and run away. She was very talkative. And playful. She loved to look nice. She was a sunshine."

It’s good to hear Aarone’s mother talk about her and what she was like when she lived with her in Detroit: a normal, healthy and active little toddler looking straight at the camera.

So different from the haunting picture of a gaunt, unsmiling, eyes-lowered Aarone offered by her father, Aaron Thompson, as proof that she even existed after October, 2001, when he took her and her brother, Aaron, Jr., from their mother and brought them to Colorado to live with him, his girlfriend, Shely Lowe, her 5 children and her brother.

What happened to Aarone after she came to Colorado? She was reported missing by her father on November 14, two hours after a social worker visited to review the family’s eligibility for rental assistance, and said she would be back. Mr. Thompson apparently panicked under the threat of the agency finding out Aarone was not in the home, and decided to report her missing before anyone else could bring her absence to the attention of authorities.

He didn’t need to: Neither Aarone, nor her brother, nor Ms. Lowe’s brother, were listed on the application for rental assistance. The agency did not ever have those three children listed, so would not have known to ask about Aarone.

You tripped yourself up, Mr. Thompson.

If you have been reading the Child Abuse Series featured on NVFC, you will find the disappearance of Aarone has so many of the known characteristics of a child abuse case. We did not want her to be an example, but unfortunately, Aarone’s disappearance is almost a classic for the signs of abuse and neglect: isolation from family and the community, a large family, an unmarried partner to a parent, a targeted child who is a girl about 4 and 1/2 years old, who was the youngest child, who had a lively temperament, who demanded attention, possibly one of the 79.7% of child fatalities at the hands of her parents.

According to the police investigation, no pictures of Aarone could be found taken after the middle of 2004. The investigators believe she was killed almost 18 months ago. The family has lived in the same house since 2001 and has 2 adults and 7 other children in the home. How could this happen?

The police believe that the father and Ms. Lowe are "persons of interest", but if they did hurt Aarone, how did they keep this information hidden for so long? One of the children
in the home has told police that Aarone has not been in the home since the end of 2004, 11 months ago. We do not know what else the 7 children have said, or what they were told about why Aarone was gone, but it would probably be fairly easy to convince the children that she was visiting her mother or another relative. The other children were kept isolated themselves, played rarely with other children, stayed in the house most of the time, and did not talk about Aarone to anyone.

Where was the family and community? That was taken care of, too. Neighbors had not ever seen Aarone and did not know all the children, she was not entered in school,the landlord had never seen her, the mother was not allowed to have address or phone information to stay in contact, relatives had not visited in a long time and she was not listed on the rental assistance records. It is not known if the church that is now supporting the father knew of Aarone’s existence.

When the existence of a child is not even known and the entire family is kept isolated, other family members and the community are prevented from seeing problems and reporting them.

A targeted child?
According to her sex, age and temperament, Aarone could have fit the profile for a targeted child. She may have required too much attention compared to the other children, been louder, more mischievous, more demanding, more aggravating to care
for to someone who was not her mother. She really had no one to protect her since her brother was not really old enough and the other children were strangers to her, and she to them.

Since she probably remembered her mother to some extent, maybe she did not want to obey someone who was not her mother. She might have "refused", or been unable, to meet the behavior standards of the new caretaker.

Nobody at this point knows all the answers, but they surely will be revealed eventually. Then the mystery of Aarone will become the tragedy of Aarone, and "a sunshine" will be missed by all of us.