GREAT FALLS — After 10 days of searching for the body of Arden Pepion, officials on the Blackfeet Reservation announced on Saturday they are scaling back operations. She was last seen on April 22nd in an area off of Highway 89 southeast of Browning.
A news release from Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services says searchers have covered 20 miles on land and 40 on water in their search for 3-year-old Arden.
The search efforts have included dive teams, horseback riders, boats, ATVs, helicopters, aerial and underwater drones, and canine teams.
Officials had reason to focus their search efforts on the Two Medicine River. Agencies from around the state partnered in the recovery mission
BLES said there is a plan in place to search other areas.
(APRIL 26) The effort to recover the body of three-year-old Arden Pepion southeast of Browning continued on Monday. She was last seen on Thursday at about 7 p.m. in the vicinity of Joe Show East Road off of US Highway 89. The rescue effort was formally declared a recovery effort on Saturday. Officials said at the time that "based on the elements and duration of time that has passed since she was last seen, we have come to realize that it is now a recovery."
At this point, authorities have no indication that Arden was abducted, and are continuing to investigate the circumstances of her disappearance. Since then, search and rescue personnel have been working around the clock to find the little girl and bring her body home.
“We’ve had some helicopters, drones and things of that nature, divers.” said Blackfeet Nation public information officer James McNeely. “The focus is the river right now.”
Over the weekend, Bureau of Indian Affairs and irrigation officials redirected river water from the Two Medicine into an irrigation ditch to lower water levels and assist searchers. “It did divert quite a bit of water and that diversion is about 5-6 miles west of where they're looking so it did help some today (Monday). The bad thing about that area is the lack of cell service and radio transmission,” said McNeely. “So we're hoping to get that up within the next day or two so we can have better reception for everyone.”
(1st REPORT, APRIL 23) Early Friday, Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services posted an "attempt to locate" message for three-year old Arden Pepion. The alert says that she was last seen on Thursday at about 7 p.m. in the vicinity of Joe Show East Road off of US Highway 89. Arden was last seen wearing a purple jacket with a a unicorn design on the front, a grey under-sweater, black leggings, and black boots with green trim.
Law enforcement officers, tribal leaders, and volunteers are searching the area, some on horseback.
James McNeely, public information officer for the Blackfeet Tribe, said in a news release: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family for a safe return of Arden as well as prayers for the safety of all our search and rescue teams who have been working very diligently during this time.
Anyone who has seen Arden or who has information about her location is asked to call Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services at 406-338-4000, or call 911. We will update you if we get more information.
NOTE: several people have asked why an AMBER Alert has not been issued. The reason is that there is no indication that Arden was abducted, which is the primary factor used to determine if an AMBER Alert is issued. In addition, authorities know the general area where Arden is, which is why they are searching in and around that location. Click here to learn more about AMBER Alerts.