BEDFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – For four years, the mystery surrounding two missing children has offered few clues to investigations in Bedford County.
It was thought at first that 9-year-old Chloie Leverette and her brother, 7-year-old Gage Daniel, had died in the fire that consumed their grandparent’s home.
But while the remains of their grandparents were found, the bodies of Chloie and Gage weren’t there.
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All that’s left of the McClaran home today is a concrete slab, a pile of rubble, a child’s shoe. There’s also something you can’t see that’s been left behind.
“There’s just an emptiness that you can’t reach,” said the children’s aunt, Mary Lamb. “It’s just constantly nagging at you.”
On Sept. 23, 2012 a passerby reported a fire at the home 72-year-old Leon “Bubba” McClaran shared with his wife Mollie.
By the time firefighters got there, it was fully engulfed in flames. It appeared there were no survivors.
For five days, forensic anthropologists from Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee sifted through the debris.
They found the remains Mollie and Bubba McClaran. On top of Mollie’s body were the remains of a bird and a dog.
But there were no signs of the children.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation then issued an Amber Alert for Chloie and Gage.
Four years later, they’re still missing.
“We’ll never get our brother and sister back,” said Bubba’s sister Kay Smith. “But these children, we’d love to get back.”
Opinions of what happened to the children differ between the people of Bedford County as much as they do between family members.
“I think somebody came in and killed my brother and Mollie,” said Mary Lamb. “I think they took the children and I have no idea where they are.”
Others think the children died in the fire and their remains turned to ash.
There were over 30 propane tanks in the McClaran’s basement. Fire officials say there was evidence that the tanks had ruptured, but there was no evidence an explosion took place. They believe the tanks were empty.
Bubba’s sisters, Mary and Kay, say the couple were hoarders.
However, state investigators are quick to debunk the theory that the children’s remains were turned to ash.
“We looked at the remnants of the house fire on multiple occasions,” said Chief Odonatologist for the Medical Examiner’s Office, Dr. Mike Tabor.
Tabor is tasked with identifying the dead through their teeth.
“I’m completely confident they weren’t in there,” he said. “So now we wonder, ‘Where are these children?’”
Further evidence the children may not have been in the house include where the children slept. They slept in the same area as their grandparents, yet they weren’t found.
Also, if something as small as a bird was found, Tabor said, then pediatric teeth would’ve been discovered, too.
The cause and origin of the fire was not able to be determined.
The TBI says they haven’t received any credible leads or tips in over 3 1/2 years. Chloie and Gage’s aunts say they believe the children are alive somewhere.
“Chloie was a happy little girl with beautiful blue eyes,” said Mary Lamb. “And Gage was the most precious child.”
They had a message for the children if they’re out there:
“Chloie and Gage, we love you,” said Lamb. “We are looking for you and we’ll be looking for you until we find you.”
If you have any information that can help investigators, you’re urged to contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.