Message in a bottle gives new hope in search for missing boy

Message in a bottle found along Great Miami River. (WDTN Photo)
Message in a bottle found along Great Miami River. (WDTN Photo)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The search for a missing Dayton boy turned up something unexpected in the Great Miami River.

A group of dedicated and determined volunteers have been searching a missing child.

While they haven’t found Zaden McKnight, they did find something that is renewing their hope that their search is not in vain.

The paper is a little worn and slightly faded. Ten years and forty miles later, the words written on the letter are clear:

“How are you? We are in Sidney, Ohio and we wanted to see how far our bottle would go. Try to respond. Sincerely, Steve, Stephanie, Marie and Kayla and Jen.”

Folded and stuffed inside a bottle, the letter was signed and dated April 9, 2004.

Wednesday, that bottle floated into the hands of someone who at first thought it was trash, but without a doubt, could use some encouragement.

“I feel like it’s a message of hope, and a message of not giving up,” said Victoria Moore, search volunteer.

Moore is a part of the search team that has been scouring the Stillwater River banks for more than two months.

They’re looking for any sign of 4-year-old Zaden McKnight.

He’s been missing since late March, though police discovered his mother’s body back in April.

“We realized that this can really be a building block to reaching out to other communities because we know when these people put that bottle in the water, they had hope that it would be found.”

The group of volunteers organizes a search party once or twice a week.

They’ve even discussed starting their own non-profit organization.

Their goal is to recruit other people to join them in hopes of finding Zaden.

“We want to keep the focus on this child and make sure that the child is brought home and that this family has peace and answers.”

They hope the people who wrote the message in a bottle will reach out to them.

In the meantime, if you would like to donate to the search effort to find Zaden, visit the volunteers’ Go Fund Me web site. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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