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Missing 3-year-old girl found dead after search near Wisconsin home

Renna Williams

DANBURY, Wis. - Divers found the body of a missing 3-year-old girl Wednesday in a canal near her home in northwestern Wisconsin.

Burnett County Emergency Management Director Rhonda Reynolds said the lifeless body of Renna Williams was found at about 4:50 p.m. Wednesday about 25 yards from her home in Danbury.

Renna disappeared after apparently wandering away from her home Tuesday evening.

An autopsy is planned.

Scores of law enforcement officers, firefighters, forest rangers and volunteers searched the forests near here Wednesday for the girl.

Williams was reported missing shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday from her family's home on an island in the Yellow River about a mile south of the unincorporated village of Danbury, about 60 miles south of the Twin Ports.

She was last seen an hour or 90 minutes before she was reported missing, Burnett County Sheriff Dean Roland said Wednesday afternoon.

Officials issued an Amber Alert, and an FBI team responded to the scene, Roland said.

He announced the discovery of the girl's body at a 6:30 p.m. news conference Wednesday.

Law enforcement, rescue personnel and volunteers searched the area Tuesday night, aided by K-9 units and a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter equipped with an infrared imaging system. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources searched the St. Croix and Yellow rivers. The ground search was suspended at 2:56 a.m. until it became light.

On Wednesday, the number of volunteer searchers grew dramatically. Eric Haupt of Spooner was among 14 volunteers in a team that lined up along Burnett County Highway F about 11:30 a.m. to search the woods to the east.

"It hits close to home," Haupt said. "I figure if I had kids, I would want someone to help."

Rhonda Reynolds, Burnett County emergency management director, said search organizers were helped by lessons learned during a missing-person search in the county four years ago. In that search, an autistic man was found alive after being missing seven days.