Desperate family members pleaded for the safe return of missing toddler Lana-Leigh Bailey, whose mother was found slain this week.
"Please return her to us," said the missing girl's aunt, Shawna Pettijohn. "We do want her back. Please bring her back to us."
"Please give her back," interjected Linda Journeys, the missing girl's great-aunt. "That's all we want."
Pettijohn's younger sister, Kaylie Bailey, 21, her boyfriend, Andrew Stout, 30, and Stout's roommate, Steven Eugene White, 31, were found slain earlier this week. The families were notified Wednesday that positive identification has been made.
Bailey's missing Toyota Corolla was found Tuesday night in Emporia.
Despite a comprehensive search of Stout's farm in rural Franklin County where the three bodies were found, authorities have not found Lana. Cadaver dogs searched the property on Tuesday.
Pettijohn issued a message to those responsible for the homicides and Lana's disappearance.
"They know what they've done. They know what they've done," Pettijohn said. "I hope they don't do anything to anybody else."
Controversy has erupted over whether an Amber Alert should have been issued on Monday after the bodies were found but before they were identified. The Franklin County Sheriff's Office said they couldn't ask for one to be issued on Monday because the status of Bailey was unknown, while the Kansas Bureau of Investigations says one could have been issued then.
Franklin County asked for an Amber Alert to be issued Wednesday afternoon, but KBI denied the request, saying too much time has passed.
Persons of interest have been questioned, but no arrest has been made in this case, Franklin County officials have said.
Pettijohn and Bailey's aunt, Linda Journeys, said they have confidence in law enforcement and their search for Lana. They said they know that is their best hope for getting Lana returned to her grandmother and other family members.
"We are ready for the sheriff to roll up and say, 'Here is Lana. We found Lana safe and sound, here she is. You can take her home,'" Pettijohn said.
She became emotional in talking about her "vivacious" niece's likes and habits.
"She'll make you word hard for a smile, but it is always worth it," her aunt said. "She has the biggest blue eyes any aunt would love, and I certainly do."
Pettijohn said there would be nothing that her dead sister would want more than her daughter to be returned to her family.
She said she last talked to her sister Tuesday night. She said her sister was taking Lana to Stout's residence for him to watch Wednesday while Bailey worked an overnight shift at an Ottawa business. Stout was needed as a sitter because Bailey's family was out of town.
Pettijohn recollected that last conversation with her sister, including them hugging and saying they loved each other. She said her sister was spirited and loved life.
"She was just trying to find her place in the world," Pettijohn said. "She was working very hard to become the person that she wanted to be."
Pettijohn and Journeys said the family is numb and devastated by Bailey's death while trying to be hopeful about Lana's safe return. They offered their thoughts and prayers to the family and loved ones of Stout and White.
"Our number one concern right now is finding 18-month-old Lana," Pettijohn said. "We know the police are doing everything in their power to find Lana. We are just hoping to hear good news about Lana at any time."
Kaylie Bailey's grandmother, Wilma Pettijohn, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday that Kaylie and Lana Bailey lived with her and her husband, Andy Pettijohn, in Olathe. She said when authorities told the family Wednesday they had identified Kaylie Bailey's body, they also said they had no information about the missing baby.
"We don't know if the man who took the car took her with him or where she is now ... But they didn't find Lana," Wilma Pettijohn told the AP.
Wilma Pettijohn described Lana as "cheerful and playful, strong-minded" and said the child's mother was a "very sweet girl," though she could be "somewhat naive maybe in the people she associated with sometimes."
"She liked for people around her to get along, not fuss or say hateful things," Wilma Pettijohn said of Bailey. "Just really loving and caring that way. She thought the world of her baby. She loved her dearly."
Wilma Pettijohn told the AP that the family has a variety of nicknames for the missing baby, from "sunshine" to "sweetheart or darling or lovely little adjectives." She said the family is hopeful the baby will be returned to them.
"Everything in the house reminds us of her," Pettijohn said. "It's just a lot of pain between here and OK."
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