MIAMI (CBSMiami) — On September 11, 1995, 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce was abducted, raped, and murdered. The horrific crime sent shock waves through South Miami-Dade and beyond.
Jimmy’s parents, Don and Claudine Ryce, faced unspeakable tragedy. They set out to create a legacy in their son’s name, founding The Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction, and championed establishing a four-legged search and rescue network.
CBS4 News spoke to Don Ryce, who shared why he hopes this mission will continue, to help save children and ensure that Jimmy never be forgotten.
“Jimmy was sweet and smart,” Ryce said. “He was an all-American boy, and a good baseball player. He was a really sensitive, caring kid and would have been very committed to what we are doing.”
When he disappeared from a school bus stop in the Redland on Sept. 11, 1995, it turned the community upside down. The search went on for 3 months, an eternity for his parents.
Jimmy’s remains were found, his abductor caught, sentenced, and eventually put to death.
These harrowing events turned his parents into activists, among other efforts, championing the use of bloodhounds for law enforcement, believing that the sooner the dogs can be used, the better the chances of finding a lost child.
“We started thinking ‘Well what would have saved our own child?’ He was a mile away from his house, but nobody knew where he was so that didn’t help. That’s when we started hearing about bloodhounds,” Ryce recalled.
Macie is a 100-pound bloodhound and a product of the Jimmy Ryce Center’s tireless efforts of covering the cost of these search dogs at $1,000 each.
She’s the only bloodhound on the force at the Broward Sheriff’s Office, where she is partnered with officer Kelli Covet since she was four months of age.
“She was a ball of energy, she doesn’t look like it right now,” Covet grins. “She was nothing but love, and she was all ears when we got her at four months old, she had to grow into her ears.”
Bloodhounds are an incredible tool in the search for a missing person, Covet explains.
“Bloodhounds have the strongest nose of all. They are built for tracking and trailing; their ears are super long; they scoop up the odor when their nose is on the ground.”
Since 1996 over 700 of these amazing animals have been donated to police agencies all over the world in Jimmy’s memory.
Macie’s keen nose, paired with a gentle disposition makes her invaluable in locating a disoriented adult, or scared child.
“There was a missing five-year-old, and [Macie and I] were able to find that child two houses down hiding in the bushes because he was afraid. Macie’s nose took us right to him.”
It’s not known how many full recoveries can be attributed to these dogs, there are many successes, and every single one makes it worthwhile.
Don recalls what his wife Claudine would say when they got news of a recovery.
“Every time a dog would find a missing child she’d say ‘It was a like a hug from Jimmy.’ It felt like Jimmy’s spirit was always a part of that, and always will be.”
The Jimmy Ryce Center relies solely on donations and operates with an all-volunteer staff. For more information, click here to visit their website.