Jacob Caldwell disappeared when he was 14 years old, just six days after witnessing his father's murder. A year later, almost to the date, Jacob was found alive in a basement, but his reappearance asks more questions than it answers.
Jacob disappeared on August 21, 2017, six days after he watched his dad, Robert, be shot to death in a parking lot in front of his three kids. The teenager was the subject of an FBI search, along with local police, as they tried to locate him.
At the same time, police were searching for Robert's killer. Eight months after his death, six people were indicted in Robert's murder, including his ex-wife (and Jacob's mother) Tawnney and Caldwell and her boyfriend Sterling Roberts. The other people indicted were Sterling's brother and half-brother, as well as Tawnney's mother and father.
Robert had just won full custody of his and Tawnney's three children, which is what prompted the murder.
"Once he got full custody, that's when all of this happened," Tyler Caldwell, Robert's brother, told FOX 45. "This isn't some street battle with two bad guys, it was a guy that just literally dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't.' When my brother was killed he had just finished a multi-year custody battle to get his children so there was no physical threat to my brother until he won custody."
Tawnney and Sterling faced life in prison or even the death penalty if they were convicted of the murder and stalking charges, but there was still one pressing issue: where was Jacob?
"Given the circumstances of the demise of his father, given that he's clearly not in the custody of the person or people who have lawful custody of him, it’s entirely possible that the child is in danger," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said.
"I think he could have roamed throughout the house, if he wished."
After months of agony for those close to Jacob, police finally received a tip on the teen's whereabouts. An anonymous female called and said she had information on Jacob's location.
When police served a search warrant at a home less than an hour away from where Jacob disappeared, they found the teen living in the basement with four other adults.
"Four adults were inside, and we found Jacob in the basement. That appeared to be his primary area of sleeping," Sugarcreek Twp. Police Chief Michael Brown said. "It was our understanding that he was not outside much. He's gone a year without school. He's gone a year without socializing with friends. There was no evidence of him being secured or locked in. I think he could have roamed throughout the house, if he wished."
According to police, Jacob seemed physically healthy as he was escorted out of the home, but Brown said that he appeared "traumatized, I don't know, someone else is going to have to make that evaluation."
Jacob was living in the house with associates of his mother, who police believe had a hand in hiding the teenager.
Thought it may seem ridiculous that Jacob was kept in this house for over a year but wasn't abducted, that's exactly what police are saying.
Brown says that Jacob did not appear to be held against his will, and that he had been encouraged by family members to run away after witnessing his father's murder.
#BreakingNews: Jacob Caldwell, a local teen who went missing after his father was murdered in front of him in 2017 has been found safe his family confirms to FOX45. https://t.co/BDkiGGcCcJ pic.twitter.com/VmubTe0jCk— ABC 22/FOX 45 Dayton (@ABC22FOX45) August 28, 2018
Jacob's reappearance was not only relieving for his friends and family, but also for the police department.
"It's been on our mind every day," Brown said. "We always felt that he was fine, we had a feeling, a really strong feeling that it was a family member involved in him being missing."
As of right now, Jacob is being held at the Greene County Juvenile Detention Center.