Where is Baby Ember? Family disputes details of disappearance
10/16/2017 1:06 pm PDT
A lot can happen in one hour. For investigators, figuring out what occurred during that exact amount of time that may be the key to solving what really happened to a missing 6-month-old girl.
Crime Watch Daily goes to Northern California with the very latest on the story of a happy mom, a devoted dad and an adorable little baby who disappears overnight. Her disappearance shattered this once-happy family into a bitter war of words.
Where is Baby Ember Graham? Is this innocent little child even alive?
In happier days, Jamie and Matthew Graham were a couple in love -- at least for a while -- struggling to make ends meet in a one-horse town near Redding, California.
"Sometimes it was really great and then sometimes it was not so great. The great times were really good and then the times that weren't were really bad. It was either really high or really low," Jamie Graham tells Crime Watch Daily.
The best of times were always centered around the sweet face of their baby, Ember Skye Graham, at 6 months old adored by everyone, especially her grandmothers.
"She's funny, she's always laughing. She likes to roll her eyes and learned how to kiss her babies," said Ember's grandmother Deborah Tomlin, Jamie's mother.
"I have a little picture of her and her arm is up and she is like this and her head is tilted, and it's so sweet," said Sheila Graham, Matthew's mother and Ember's other grandmother.
And she was definitely sweet on her daddy, Matthew Graham.
"She just has him wrapped right around her little finger and he just adored her and was very attentive to her needs," said Sheila.
Some of those needs are life-threatening. Ember requires regular medication to control seizures. But when he wasn't being "superdad," Matthew's cousin Sara says he liked to party.
"He smoked marijuana medically and recreationally," said Sara Chabino, Matthew's cousin. "He smoked honey oil, which is a form of cannabis."
Whether it was the pot or something else, Jamie says Matthew was impulsive, even erratic.
"We could be living together and then next thing you know he'd come home from work and he'd be like 'OK, well you know what, I don't want to be with you and you're moving out and this is the way things are,' and that's how it went. And he did that very often," said Jamie Graham.
While trying to get his life on track Matthew moves in with his cousin Sara.
"Everything was finally falling into place. He had gotten a ticket for drunk driving, that was finishing up, they were going to have more money, like everything was just finally perfect," said Sara.
Then one blazing hot summer night, that perfect picture shatters. Ember's having a daddy-daughter sleepover with Matthew.
"He would come pick her up sometimes and she would stay the night, either one time every week or one time every other week she'd be staying the night with him," said Jamie.
At around 10:30 that night Matthew says he went to sleep in a bed just a few feet from Ember. But as the sun comes up the next morning, Baby Ember is gone -- vanished from her crib. Matthew panics.
"He said he woke up and he went running into the front room and she wasn't there," Matthew's mother Sheila tells Crime Watch Daily. "I could hear the emotion and the fear in his voice, and the not knowing where she was, and where was she?"
Police respond to Matthew's 911 call, and Ember's distraught mom Jamie arrives soon after. But Jamie doesn't find Matthew to be hysterical at all.
What was Matthew's demeanor like?
"It was very strange, he seemed like he was upset but at the same time it almost seemed kind of fake," Jamie tells Crime Watch Daily. "He was crying, but it almost seemed like he was whining. It was very kind of forced, and it was really confusing."
The questions swirl in the young mom's head: Was Ember snatched from her crib while Matthew slept just a few feet away? Or did Matthew know more than he was saying?
"I immediately was running around like a chicken with my head cut off looking everywhere that I could, I was scrambling around because my 6-month-old child is missing, and she was just there the day before," said Jamie Graham.
Police dispatch search parties. A media frenzy explodes. And a growing cloud of suspicion forms around Matthew Graham.
"There wasn't hardly anybody had anything good to say about him," said Tom Tomlin, Jamie's father and Ember's grandfather. "He either stole from them, money or property, owed them money, borrowed this and never returned it type of thing. There wasn't a lot of love for that man in that town. I wouldn't say 'enemies' -- a lot of people were pissed off at him."
And, cops say, Matthew's story doesn't quite add up. Their suspicion starts with what Matthew did the day before Ember's disappearance, when he runs an odd errand with Ember in tow.
"I was in the kitchen and he had came in and asked me, he said 'I'm gonna go to the gas station, do you want anything?'" said Matthew's cousin Sara Chabino. "And he left. He was gone a little bit longer than normal."
How far was the gas station?
"It was like five minutes," Sara tells Crime Watch Daily.
Police say they know for sure Baby Ember was with her father when they hit up the convenience store. But what happened after that remains unclear.
Surveillance video from the store shows Matthew Graham grabbing a few things and then paying, with Baby Ember clearly in her carrier. Matthew then packs Ember into his truck and drives off. But not toward home -- he heads west toward the Clear Creek water tower in the opposite direction.
"We talked him about that, he said that he was taking her for a ride to get her to calm down, possibly to go to sleep," a law enforcement official told affiliate station KRCR-TV.
What cops discover next really sends up red flags: The security camera catches Matthew's car coming back the other way a full hour later.
"And when asked what he did during that hour he can't remember," the official said.
Where was Matthew coming from? And more importantly, was little Ember still with him?
Jamie Graham's 6-month-old daughter, little Ember Skye, had been missing for a week after last being seen in Happy Valley, California on July 1, 2015. Adding to Jamie's fears are Ember's life-threatening seizures.
"Whoever took her didn't bring her medication and I don't know what's happened to her," Jamie told local TV affiliate KRCR-TV. "All I want is her home."
Police named Ember's father Matthew Graham a person of interest. The day before Matthew reported her missing, surveillance video catches him during an hour-long drive with Ember, and he says he can't recall where he went.
"If he didn't do something he didn't want anybody to know about, why would he lie about it?" said Ember's grandmother Deborah Tomlin, Jamie's mother.
But Matthew's cousin Sara Chabino says there's nothing to lie about. She says she saw Ember later that afternoon right in Matthew's arms.
"I can't say what happened, I just know that she was alive after the store, it didn't happen in the hour," Sara tells Crime Watch Daily. "I'm 100-percent sure."
Even Matthew's estranged wife Jamie tells reporters she thinks Matthew's innocent.
"I'm frustrated that they're focusing on him," Jamie told reporters. "Because he didn't do it. There's no way."
But detectives are convinced something happened to Ember in that hour along a roadway. Police lock Matthew up on a drug charge and grill him about his missing child.
"I think that they had tried to keep him in jail to try and see if maybe he would say something, or you know, talk to investigators, but that didn't happen," said Jamie Graham.
Authorities say Matthew "offered little or no assistance to help clear himself." And "at no time during the eight plus hours he was with detectives did he ever inquire about what was being done to find her."
Jamie was now starting to wonder about Matthew.
"I knew immediately something was not right, his story did not make sense," said Jamie.
Then Jamie's suspicions are sadly confirmed when a search party unearths a stunning clue: a pacifier was found by the side of the road miles beyond where Matthew says he drove the day before.
DNA on the pacifier is a match: It's Baby Ember's.
"I knew something was wrong," Jamie tells Crime Watch Daily. "Why would her pacifier be all the way out in practically the middle of nowhere? At that point it confirms that she had been out there, but why?"
Investigators want to know too, and they schedule another chat with Matthew Graham.
The shaken dad pleads his innocence to his mom Sheila.
"He had mentioned, 'Mom, if they put me back in jail, how can I look for Ember? How can I prove I didn't do this?'" said Sheila Graham.
Sheila drives Matthew to the sheriff's station to clear his name.
"It was very hot and we parked in the shade and my last words to him were 'We'll be right here waiting for you Matthew,' and then he got out and we didn't see him again," said Sheila.
Instead of reporting in to the authorities, the desperate dad takes off running, going from person of interest to fugitive from justice.
"I'm like, 'Oh Matthew, why would you do this?'" said Sheila. But it's even worse than she thinks. When she checks her purse, items are missing: $400 in cash and a fully loaded pistol.
"I realized how light my purse was and I realized that the gun wasn't in there, and I knew right then that he was dead, because that would give the sheriff's office the justification to kill him," said Sheila.
Police put out an all-points bulletin and a warning that Matthew Graham is "armed and dangerous."
"They said 'You guys need to not go home. He's armed and dangerous and he's coming for Jamie,'" said Jamie's father Tom Tomlin.
The fugitive father is spotted nearby at a fast-food restaurant, but he takes off before cops can nab him.
Then, a break: Matthew steals a Buick Lucerne sedan at gunpoint, taking off up Interstate 5. What he doesn't know is the car he just jacked is equipped with GPS.
Matthew's mother Sheila used to work for the Shasta County Sheriff's Department. Her sense of dread is overwhelming as she monitors police radios for updates.
"I heard it on the scanner. I heard that they had him cornered in Dunsmuir," said Sheila.
Matthew holes up in a detached garage. Homeowners lock themselves indoors. The neighborhood falls silent. It's a standoff.
"The peace officers at the scene are thinking, 'Hey, this guy's desperate, he's armed with a handgun,'" said Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey.
The police radio crackles again and Sheila's heart drops.
"They said 'Shots fired,' and then they, someone called for an ambulance, and then they canceled the ambulance, and I knew right then," said Sheila.
Cops say there's a glint off Matthew's pistol, then a gunshot. There's no choice but to open fire.
"I think that he was probably going to ambush the involved deputies and officers," said Sheriff Lopey.
"Usually they will say on the scanner 'One in custody,' and they never said that, so I knew right then that he was dead," said Sheila.
Matthew Graham is gone, a son, a father, and possibly the only one who really knows what happened to Baby Ember.
"Matthew's gone, and what now?" said Jamie Graham.
Matthew Graham, cornered in a garage, dies in a shootout with cops. Has all hope of finding Baby Ember died with him?
"He would not tell the truth for her when he could have, and all of this could have been avoided," said Ember's mother Jamie Graham.
Baby Ember is still missing, and police believe Matthew Graham is somehow responsible.
Does anyone know more about the case than they're saying?
"Since the beginning our families have had two different agendas," said Jamie Graham. "Mine was to find my daughter, their family's was to cover Matthew's butt."
Baby Ember's mom Jamie, says Matthew's cousin Sara is hiding the truth.
There's an hour time period Matthew couldn't account for but Sarah Chabino tells us that when Matthew got back from Happy Valley station, Ember was with him and was very much alive. Is she lying?
"Yes, she is," said Jamie. "She did not see Ember after that store trip, and Matthew told me himself that he did not take Ember back in there. She's just making an alibi for him that he never had."
And then there's the day Matthew ran, suddenly armed with a handgun and lots of cash.
"I believe it was a plan," said Jamie. "I believe that they knew that he was going back to jail, and that he was not innocent in this, and they gave him the gun and the money and I think that they told him to run."
But remember, that's not what Matthew's mom told us. She said he stole $400 and the pistol from her purse.
Cousin Sara Chabino is sticking to her story, that she saw Baby Ember alive with Matthew after she was supposed to have gone missing.
"I don't know what happened after. But I know I seen her after the store," Sara tells Crime Watch Daily. "I think they [authorities] just think I'm remembering wrong. Because I've offered to take a lie-detector test -- you know, how else do you prove your truth -- and they won't give me one. They just basically call me a liar and let people speculate."
Do you think Cousin Sara and them know where Ember is?
"Oh yes. Either they know where Ember is now or they know what happened to her. He had to have told somebody. I believe that he told them," Jamie said.
"There's nothing to cover. I mean, what purpose would it serve me to say I seen her after the store?" said Sara Chabino.
Is it possible Ember was kidnapped with her father just a few feet away?
Two years after Ember vanished, Crime Watch Daily went inside Matthew's trailer to examine the scene. Could this possibly be a murder scene?
"I don't think so," said Sara. "I mean, they brought the dogs in, law enforcement, and they collected evidence and they found nothing. They've never found anything. And I don't even think law enforcement believe it happened here, you know? They think it happened in the hour -- they're so set, even though they have nothing. If it happened in the hour, where is she? Maybe he did it, maybe he didn't, but like, why not show the whole truth?"
Matthew's family has hired private investigator Philip Klein to hunt down the whole truth.
"I believe as a lead investigator in this case that we're looking at a death case. Now, is it a homicide?" said Klein. "I don't know. Is it a accidental case of, maybe the baby wasn't medicated properly and had a seizure, Matthew freaked out and didn't know what to do?"
At this stage Klein isn't drawing conclusions -- yet.
"The evidence is going to take me where the evidence is going to take me, the storyline's going to take me where the storyline takes me," said Klein. "Time is on my side as the investigator. I'll figure out what happened."
Until then, Baby Ember's family holds out one hope. Does Jamie think Ember is still alive?
"I'm very aware that it's possible that she's not. But I in my heart try to believe that she is," said Jamie.
Jamie also believes in her heart that Matthew's mother and cousin Sara know what happened to her adorable baby.
"And they need to come forward and tell the truth for Ember because they can't keep that secret forever," said Jamie. "Even if they don't know where she is now, they know what had happened."
But there is one thing every member of the family can agree upon.
"It's just a matter of time before the truth comes out. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Ember deserves better than this," said Jamie Graham.
And investigator Philip Klein tells us he has generated some very compelling leads.
As for the sheriff's office, the department tells Crime Watch Daily it will not talk about the case until the investigation from Klein is complete, only revealing the case is very much still open and deputies continue to follow up on leads in hopes of locating Baby Ember.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Klein Investigations and Consulting at (409) 729-8798 extension 3; or (580) 798-8157 (you may remain anonymous); or the Shasta County Sheriff's Office at (530) 245-6540; or Shasta County Secret Witness (530) 243-2319.