From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Seven-year-old Kyron Horman has long known what he wants to be when he grows up: a police detective. Now the second grader is the focus of a police investigation in Oregon's Multnomah County more complex than he could ever have imagined. Last seen on June 4 by his teacher and others, wearing a CSI T-shirt and touring the science fair at Skyline School just outside Portland, the bespectacled boy posed with a wide grin for a photo in front of his own project, a diorama of red-eyed tree frogs. His stepmom Terri Horman, 40, said she last saw him walking toward his classroom as the 8:45 a.m. bell rang. When she met his bus at 3:30 p.m., he wasn't on board. A frantic call to the school produced an unfathomable answer: Kyron had been marked absent.

That a child could vanish from the safe confines of school has baffled authorities and unnerved parents. Shortly after the boy's disappearance, 45 parents kept their children from the school. Within days authorities had received more than 1,200 tips, and the search of the dense forest and deep canyons around the school-involving more than 1,000 local, state and federal law-enforcement officials and searchers-yielded nothing. On day 10 search crews were called off, and the case was reclassified as a criminal investigation. Capt. Jason Gates of the sheriff's office says the disappearance is an isolated event and that there is "no reason to believe that kids are in any danger."

Responding to police requests that they maintain their normal routine, Kyron's divorced parents and their respective spouses have steered clear of the media. They made a brief, emotional appearance at which his distressed father, Kaine Horman, who works at nearby Intel, pleaded, "Please help us bring Kyron home."

Horman, 36, who was divorced from Kyron's mother, Desiree Young, 38, in 2003, has an 18-month-old girl with his wife, Terri. Friends in Hillsboro, a small town outside of Portland, say Terri, a former teacher, helped raise Kyron since he was an infant. Every two weeks Kyron visits his mother, who lives about four hours away. "They're all devastated. It's your worst nightmare," says family friend Michael Harney.

It's every parent's worse nightmare. Where, after all, could be a safer place to leave your child than a school? At Skyline doors had opened early that day so that working parents could tour the science fair. "You had a lot of parents walking throughout the building going from classroom to classroom," says Matt Shelby, district spokesman for Portland Public Schools. Gates estimates that virtually all of the school's 300 students have been interviewed. With each passing hour, the trail grows colder. Some "99.9 percent of my-kid-didn't-come-off-the-school-bus cases are solved within the first couple of hours," Gates says. "That's not happening here." Noticeably emotional, Gates adds, "Kids always change everything for cops... . It's personal."

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  • Reported by Elaine Aradillas/Portland.