CBS station WHNT in Huntsville, Ala. Interviewed Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett, who called the case "mind-boggling".
No children have been reported missing, killed or maimed in or around Russellville. Hargett said investigators were studying missing persons reports from nearby areas and sent the severed foot for forensic tests in a bid to narrow the search, but as WHNT's Jaime McGriff reports, so far, the investigation has generated more questions than it has answered.
The son of a homeowner spotted the family dog carrying something late Saturday and called his father, who then alerted police. Hargett said an orthopedic surgeon verified that the dog had dragged up a child's bare foot, severed below the ankle.
The foot was found in a subdivision, Hargett said, and authorities on Sunday searched the area with cadaver-sniffing dogs without finding anything.
"A dog could have brought it so far and then another one got it," Hargett said. "It could be miles away."
He added that the foot appeared to have been outdoors only a few days. But he said it's unlikely a young child could have survived such an injury without treatment and added investigators have received no indication that the child is alive.
"We pretty much have to think the worst," Hargett said, noting no accidents have been reported by area hospitals involving the loss of a foot.
Searchers plan to head out again Tuesday morning with dogs in hopes that any scent from decomposing remains may be stronger by then, Hargett added.
Meanwhile, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences was conducting tests to determine the child's age and possibly race and gender.
"We've got to narrow it down," Hargett said.
Russellville, with about 9,000 residents, is located in a heavily wooded, mostly rural part of the state.